Exploring a city through a derive

When looking into De Certeau’s theory, he suggests that you walk through a city not view it. He argues that  walking in the city has “its own rhetoric” and with people’s limited scope as they move about and write their own course of subjective use of the urban space “the network of these moving, intersecting writings compose and manifold story that has neither author nor spectator”.

De Certeau, “the pedestrians of a city create it through their walking about, as an objective mass made of subjects which escape any planned or regulated scheme of the city. The pedestrian, while walking in the city, has his own style, which is a sort of language which speaks about the city and take part in creating its meaning.” In walking in the city, the pedestrian gives new meanings to places and streets which are not the same as those originally assigned to them. Pedestrians, for De Certeau, create the meaning of the urban space by applying their imagination to it through the manner in which they move about the city “linking acts and footsteps, opening meanings and directions, these words operate in the name of an emptying-out and wearing away of their primary role. They become liberated spaces that can be occupied”. 

We used De Certeau’s theory in ‘walking in the city’ and applied it to Guy Debord theory the derive. A derive is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travelers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience. Having applied the two theories together, to make sense of our location, and to avoid what the city wants us as tourist to look at, we did two of Debords derive, to explore the city in depth.

We did the random directions derive, we started off at the hotel, and took turns at choosing random directions to follow. With these directions we found ourselves at VE Stinadech, here we found a wall full of communism related graffiti and we had our first sighting of and old style communist tenant building (Panelak).

We did a second derive called the wrong map, this derive involves us taking a map of another city for example the map of Bucharest and using it as if it was a map in Prague. We used a Bucharest map and mapped out a route starting from Intercontinental hotel to Parliament Palace. When we used this route in Prague, it lead us from our hotel in Prague through Charles Bridge and the final destination which was The American Embassy.

Bucharest Map 

map hotel praliament building 2

Prague Map 

map prague

Lesoda Otu-Iso


Why Constructivist Grounded Theory?

Now the question appears why is this the best methodology and how it can be applied on our project.

Constructivism, as ideology explains that ideas are constructed by  people and the context in which they are researched. Every time “reality” changes when the context is different and people have a different cultural background. For example if you research the idea of marriage in african culture, american culture and asian culture every context will bring out different ideas.

In the case of our research we were interested how space and place were shaped by the communist regime in Prague. We decided to do three types of research in order to understand better our topic. In the beginning of our project an informative research was developed, trying to find out what Prague was all about, and how communist was perceived there and in the other communist countries. This part helped us understand a bit the context and gave us an idea of what communism is.

The second part, and the most important, was going to Prague for a 5 days field trip. Because of the methodology we are using, we decided to go there with an open minded and with the intention to listen to people and there’s point of view on communism.

Our methodology presumes that the primary data collected from the qualitative research (interviews), has to be coded and compared between it, afterwards it would be compared with our secondary research (online research) and liked with theory and our informative research.

Why is this the best approach? This methodology helped us start from primary data (people’s perception on how space and place was shaped by communism) and after that construct on our findings with the secondary and informative research. In this way we put more accent on people’s experience and their own perception, we also had more theoretical sensitivity. If we were to start from books and theory to understand people’s perceptions we couldn’t bring something new on the filed because we already had an idea of what happened in Czechoslovakia.

A question that is being put now, is how “blank page we could go into our research?” Butler brings up that we all perceive the world in the “law”, which means that we cannot conceive and imagine our world without binding together aspects and ideas that we already have, she talk’s of an already existent really. Corbin and Strauss did not believe in a pre-existing reality, they tried to be more objective in the construction of the grounded theory, however, Charmaz in the construction of constructivist grounded theory was more subjective. we couldn’t detache 100% from the law when we went to do the field trip, but we tried to be as open minded as possible.

Looking on the steps of our methodology, first we gathered all the field trip data we started coding it into categories, such as: architecture, media coverage, perception of communism and crimes of communism, afterwards every thing was correlated with the other researches that we did and  in the end decided that the core category of our research is: the perceptions of communism. All the bits were studied and compared having in mind the core category .

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Constructivist Grounded Theory

After talking a bit about constructivism and grounded theory, I would like to discuss now constructivist grounded theory.

This type of research was developed by Charmaz, a student of Glaser and Strauss, she points out the a researcher has to look beyond date, to seek meaning in ideologies, environment, beliefs and values, all in the context of the participants. There is an underlying assumption that the interaction between the researcher and participants “produces the data, and therefore the meanings that the researcher observes and defines” (Charmaz, 1995, p. 35) also she assumes that “data do not provide a window on reality. Rather, the ‘discovered’ reality arises from the interactive process and its temporal, cultural, and structural contexts” (Charmaz, 2000, p. 524). To enrich these data, Charmaz (1995) has positioned the researcher as coproducer, exhorting them to “add . . . a description of the situation, the interaction, the person’s affect and [their] perception of how the interview went” (p. 33).

Charmaz (2000) developed the theme of writing as a strategy in constructivist grounded theory in her later work, when she advocates a writing style that is more literary than scientific in intent. She has argued that constructivist grounded theorists are impelled to be analytical in their writing but that their style of writing needs to be evocative of the experiences of the participants (Charmaz, 2001). The researcher’s voice need not “transcend experience but re-envis[age] it . . . bring[ing] fragments of fieldwork time, context and mood together in a colloquy of the author’s several selves—reflecting, witnessing, wondering, accepting—all at once” (Charmaz & Mitchell, 1996, p. 299)

Charmaz, K. (1995b). Grounded theory. In J. Smith, R. Harré,&L. Langenhove (Eds.), Rethinking methods in psychology (pp. 27-65). London: Sage

Charmaz, K. (2000). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 509-535). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Charmaz, K. (2001). Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context and method (pp. 675-694). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Charmaz, K.,&Mitchell, R. (1996). The myth of silent authorship: Self, substance, and style in ethnographic writing. Symbolic Interaction, 19(4), 285-302.


Space is a term that can be referred to as a boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and event have relative position and directions. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it with time.

The concept of space is considered to be of fundamental importance to an understanding of the physical universe. So many scholars have defined the concept of space, according Gottfired Leibniz  viewed space as a collection of relation between object, given by their distance and direction from one another (Leibniz, 1890:45). Immauel Kant also said neither space nor time can be empirically perceived, they are elements of a systematic frame work that humans use to structure all experiences (Cited in Dikshit, 2006:70) . Leibniz he also analysed space as not more than the collection of spatial between objects in the world: ‘space is that which results from places taken together. This brings us to the simply definition of space ‘space is an abstract; it is defined through maps and geography that are physically labelled (Leibniz, 1980:62).

Our main focus in this research is the geographical and culture space and mapping out our space (ie our research location), to make sense and meaning to the research.

Geography is the branch of science concerned with identifying and describing the earth, utilizing spatial awareness to try to understand why things exist in specific location and this is done by cartography, it is the mapping of space to allow better navigation for visualization purposes and to all as a locational device.

Geographical space is often considered as land and the have a relation to ownership usage (in which space is seen as a property or territory). Space also impact on human and cultural behaviour as one person’s space is different from the other. Space also being an important factor in the design of building and structures.

As a result of our research topic, we need to map out our space to make sense to us, but before doing that we need to look into the meaning of maps, According to Peter Jackson 1989, he refers to map as a meaning of a way we make sense of the world, rendering our geographical experience intelligible, attaching value to the environment and investing the material world with symbolic significance (Jackson, 1989:1). So this to say space is important in mapping out geographical culture.

In simple term a map is a visual representation of an area a symbolic depiction, highlighting relationship between elements of the space as object, region etc. According to O’Connor 2002, he said many maps are static two dimensional, geometrically accurate or approximately accurate representation of three-dimensional space, while others are dynamic or interactive. Many maps may represent any space, real or imagined (O’Conner, 2002:16).

All this maps with descriptions have embedded meaning in them about a space, and how one can relate to a space individually, collectively and culturally. This again has to do with cultural geography – Cultural geography is the study of cultural products and norms, in relation to space and place, it focuses on describing and analysing the ways language, religion, economy, government, and other cultural phenomena vary. In understanding cultural geography one has to understand the unique cultural character of a space.

The understanding of cultural location is to recognize that each, cultural location as space has its own unique cultural characters. How to understand this is to approach a city space and its cultural characters. Giving that Prague is our primary focus, which its cultural location (geography and character) is a distinctive one.

Prague is the capital of Czech Republic, it is the fourteenth largest city in European Union, it situated in the North West of the country, it is 496 square KM about 1.2 million inhabitants live there. The Vitava River is a defining geographical feature as it rolls through the city. Prague is spread with in the Vitava River basin over a series of nine hills: Lethna, Vitkon, Opys, Vetrov, Skalka, Emauzy, Vysehrad, Karlov and the highest Petrin. The city centre of the city lives on both side of the river and was/is traditionally divided into four sections.

  • Hradcany (hill on the left bank), site of Prague castle, a complex of Palaces and churches that dates from the 10th century.
  • Lesser Quarter: (below the castle) area of winding streets Baroque Palaces, gardens and medieval houses.
  • Old Town (on the opposite side of the river connected to lesser quarter by Charles Bridge) site of the old town square and many Gothic building.
  • New Town (connected to old town) newer developments including Wenceslaus square.

The city has a temperate oceanic climate, with its warm summer and chilly winter, since the fall of the iron curtain Prague has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destination, it is the sixth most visited in European city after London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, and Berlin. The city contains one of the world most pristine and varied collection of architecture (Geography of Prague, 2012).

The understanding of a map makes sense of space, place and culture, having done a research on space and map, this enable us make understand of our primary research location.



  • O’Connor J.J and E, Robertson, 2002: The History of Cartography. Scotland , St Andrews university.
  • Peter Jackson, 1989: Maps of Meaning. Unwin Hyman Ltd.
  • Leibniz. G, (1890). The Philosophical works of Lelbniz.
  • R.D Dikshit (2006). Geographical thought:  A contextual history of Ideas. Prentice. Hall of India.


Lesoda Otu-Iso

Grounded Theory – Coding and diagramming & Identifying the core category

In this article I am looking forward to discuss the other two common characteristics of grounded theory: Coding and diagramming and identifying the core category

In the traditional grounded theory, coding the data received is vital for this form of the methodology. Looking into Glaser we can see three form of coding: open, theoretical and constant comparison. (Glaser 1992)

Open coding is the initial step of theoretical analysis, developing codes from the data. This form of coding ends when it locates a core category. Theoretical codes are “conceptual connectors” that develop relationships between categories and their properties (Glaser, 1992, p. 38). Constant comparative coding describes the method of constant comparison that inspires both open and theoretical coding.

Another method used by Strauss and Corbin is conditional or consequential matrix. They described it as “an analytic device to help the analyst keep track of the interplay of conditions/consequences and subsequent actions/interactions and to trace their paths of connectivity” (Corbin & Strauss 1998 p. 199). Using the matrix, the researcher is able to locate an interaction that appears repeatedly in the data and then trace the linkages from this through the micro and macro conditions that might influence it (Corbin & Strauss, 1996).

Diagramming is central to the coding processes, and Strauss and Corbin use it extensively. Initially in the coding process, logic diagrams such as flowcharts are used. When undertaking higher level analysis, researchers use both the conditional/consequential matrix and integrative diagramming, illustrating the complex interplay between the different levels of conditions (Strauss, 1987; Corbin &Strauss, 1990, 1998).

An important feature of the grounded theory is that is does not impose a way of coding or reconstruction of the participants storeys, it offers the research a “smorgasbord table” (Corbin & Strauss 1998, p 8) from which he can chose the best technique that fits its research.


Identifying the core category

Centre to the grounded theory, the core category includes all the theory contrasts and consist in making a “story line” from all the findings and also integrates the researcher as a writer of a theoretical reconstruction. The story line is the final conceptualisation of the core category, and as such, this “conceptual label” must fit the stories/data it represents (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 121). This process acknowledges the reconstruction of the participants’ stories by the researcher and the fulfilment of their obligation to “give voice—albeit in the context of their own inevitable interpretations” (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 281).


Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1996). Analytic ordering for theoretical purposes. Qualitative Inquiry, 2(2), 139-150.

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Grounded Theory -Theoretical sensitivity & Treatment of Literature


If in the last articles I discussed a bit about constructivism and grounded theory, now I will like to go a bit in depth with the common characteristics of grounded theory as following: theoretical sensitivity and treatment of the literature.

Theoretical sensitivity is a concept that treats the researcher level of perceptiveness in the research zone, it also has in mind the understanding of the complexity word of the partakers and the scholar ability to construct meaning from the data collected and his skills to “separate the pertinent from that which isn’t” (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 44)

Grounded theory implies that the researcher goes to do research with an opened clear mind, as Locke was calling it a “tabula rasa”. This vision can help the research to go in any direction, not giving him the opportunity to get stuck into theoretical or social stereotypes. Of course this is not 100% possible because of the law, in Butler’s view.  She suggests that our representations are made by mixing up ideas and experience together, ours or others, and that we cannot intend a theory without basing or constructing it on something else. Even if Strauss denies a “pre-existing” reality, it is useful to have the law in the mind when we do research.

Strauss and Corbin have suggested different techniques of becoming more sensitive as following: questioning, the flip-flop technique or far-out comparison. They also suggested that is better for the research to use these techniques in the act of theory elaboration, “Theorizing is the act of constructing . . . from data an explanatory scheme that systematically integrates various concepts through statements of relationship” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 25) and that theories themselves are “interpretations made from given perspectives as adopted or researched by researchers” (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 279)

Treatment of literature

The area of literature and its uses are diametrically contested between traditional and evolved grounded theorists. Traditional grounded theory provides the dictum that “there is a need not to review any of the literature in the substantive area under study” (Glaser, 1992, p. 31) for fear of contaminating, constrain-ing, inhibiting, stifling, or impeding the researcher’s analysis of codes emergent from the data (Glaser, 1992). This, again, situates the data as an entity separate from both participant and researcher.

Engaging proactively with the literature from the beginning of the research process, Strauss and Corbin identified many uses for this information (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), interweaving the literature throughout the process of evolved grounded theory as another voice contributing to the researcher’s theoretical reconstruction. In the same way that Strauss and Corbin have viewed the use of techniques to increase theoretical sensitivity, the literature is able to provide examples of similar phenomena that can “stimulate our thinking about properties or dimensions that we can then use to examine the data in front of us” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 45).

The “nontechnical” literature, such as reports and internal correspondence, is seen as a potential source of data, providing information, in particular, about the context within which the participant operates, for example, their employing organization (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). This then contributes to an analysis of additional data that is concerned with uncovering the meso and macro conditions that might influence the area of interest identified by the participants (Corbin, 1998).


Corbin, J. (1998). Alternative interpretations: Valid or not? Theory & Psychology, 8(1), 121-128.

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Grounded Theory

In the search of the proper research methodology for our project, I had a look into constructivism and now I will talk about grounded theory in the view of Glaser, Strauss, and Corbin.

The new wave of views upon research brought to light very interesting and useful ideas, one of them is grounded theory. This approach makes the researcher to leave all the views settled for his research along side and to start the investigation with clear eyes, without any preconceived ideas to prove or disprove. In this way the accent if put on the constructions of theories “about issues of importance in peoples lives”. (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998)

This requires a process of data collection and interpretation with the purpose of creating theories from people’s experiences and their issues of importance, usually that have a shared interest with the researcher.  In the analysation of data, the research makes comparisons initial data with data, and afterwards with other sources.

Depending on the researcher’s ontological and epistemological beliefs, there are several points of departure along a spiral of methodological development. Engaging in any form of grounded theory study, however, requires the researcher to address a set of common characteristics: theoretical sensitivity, theoretical sampling, treatment of the literature, constant comparative methods, coding, the meaning of verification, identifying the core category, memoing and diagramming, and the measure of rigour (McCann & Clark, 2003).

In the history of grounded theory it can be seen two different approaches: traditional (Glaser) and evolved grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin). For this research we believed that the evolved grounded theory is more appropriate and closer to constructivism.

Strauss and Corbin, in the evolution of grounded theory, acknowledge the importance of a multiplicity of perspectives and “truths” (Strauss, 1987; Strauss & Corbin, 1990, 1994, 1998) and as such have “extended and emphasised the range of theoretically sensitising concepts that must be attended to in the analysis of human action/interaction” (MacDonald, 2001, p. 137). This enables an analysis of data and a reconstruction of theory that is richer and more reflective of the context in which participants are situated. They insist that theirs is “interpretive work and . . . interpretations must include the perspectives and voice of the people who we study ” (Strauss&Corbin, 1994, p. 274). Such a position clearly implies that this perspective includes relating participants’ stories to the world in which the participants live.

In the following articles I will explain more about evolved grounded theory and I will explain how grounded theory can fuse with constructivism and why is the best approach for our research.

MacDonald, M. (2001). Finding a critical perspective in grounded theory. In R. Schreiber & P. N. Stern (Eds.), Using grounded theory in nursing (pp. 113-158). New York: Springer;

McCann, T., & Clark, E. (2003). Grounded theory in nursing research: Part 3—Application. Nurse Researcher,11(2), 29-39;

Glaser, B. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity: Advances in the methodology of grounded theory. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press;

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press;

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago:Aldine;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Constructivism – or how we can we perceive the world in the 21st century

After the Crises of Representation in the 80s, researches looked for new methods to analyse and represent their work. If some of them said that this can be the end of theory, others tried to find different approaches to the use and the development of theory.

One of them can be considered the constructivism methodology. It occurred to that in the need of being academical we apply and use theories form different periods of time expecting the same results as they had before. We apply “Freud” and pretend that it might have the same result, we speak about Foucault and think that his ideas can be the same today. Some of them can and are very useful, explaining our problems but what we constantly forget is to bring them in the spectrum of today’s context. Each scholar, when he did research, was influenced by the historical and cultural context that he lived in, this shaped his view of the world, his creativity and the most important “the meaning of the truth”, however all put together, made his findings important and relevant.

Constructivism, as research paradigm, sustains that there is no objective reality “asserting instead that realities are social constructions of the mind, and that there exist as many such constructions as there are individuals (although clearly many constructions will be shared)” (Guba & Lincoln, 1989, p. 43). To be more specific, suggests that our perceptions can find more than one reality of the subject matter, al being influenced by the different contexts in which the researcher looks. People who reject the objective reality usually find their interest in the relativism ontological position.

Relativists claim that concepts such as rationality, truth, reality, right, good, or norms must be understood “as relative to a specific conceptual scheme, theoretical framework, paradigm, form of life, society, or culture . . . there is a non-reducible plurality of such conceptual schemes” (Bernstein, 1983, p. 8)

Constructivism, epistemologically speaking, underlines the subjective line between the research and the individuals that take part in it. (Hayes & Oppenheim, 1997; Pidgeon & Henwood, 1997). Presuming that, researchers are part of the research, they cannot be seen as objective observers, also their outcomes must be seen as part of this subjectiveness paradigm.

Looking for a methodology that can sustain the research with our ontological and epistemological position, we decided to follow the constructivism grounded theory paradigm.

Bernstein, R. (1983). Beyond objectivism and relativism: Science, hermeneutics, and praxis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 105-117). London: Sage

Hayes, R.,&Oppenheim, R. (1997). Constructivism: Reality is what you make it. In T. Sexton&B. Griffin (Eds.), Constructivist thinking in counseling practice, research and training (pp. 19-41). New York: Teachers College Press.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Habitus and Hexis

Habitus and hexis are two concepts developed by Pierre Bourdieu in his attempt of approaching power within the context of comprehensive theory of society. In his view, habitus is ‘the way society becomes deposited in persons in the form of lasting dispositions, or trained capacities and structured propensities to think, feel and act in determinant ways, which then guide them’ (Wacquant 2005: 316, cited in Navarro 2006: 16).

Habitus can be also applied in constructing a city identity, it can be understood as the predisposition of a city to respond to current social, economical political or even physical circumstances in a particular way, ways that can be different in other cities.

As an example we can think about the city of Coventry and how it’s bombing in the Second World War shaped the people, industry, architecture and so on. Also in our case, we can see how cities respond to the uprising of different political regimes in history.


If habitus is more an abstract concept, hexis, is the embodiment of it. In this way we can look at cities as human bodies and see the hexis as the marks that time left on the body. In the same way we tattoo our body, cities can be “tattooed” with graffiti, or we can look at a mark left by a disease on the surface of our skin and compare it with “marks” of war or perhaps communism.

The two concepts can be helpful in revealing a city identity or discover the direct appliance of history, it gives us a sense of how strong the city can be and how good can handle with different crises.

prague graffiti

Navarro, Z. (2006) ‘In Search of  Cultural Intepretation of Power’, IDS Bulletin 37(6): 11-22

Wacquant, L. (2005) Habitus. International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology. J. Becket and Z. Milan. London, Routledge

Eduard Claudiu Vasile