Alpacadula, an alpaca who dreams of becoming a soccer star, lives high up in the puna. Alpacadula trains until he becomes part of the alpaca soccer team, but after a match against rival Llama Guerrero in which he suffers a severe injury, he decides to retire to devote himself to politics and run for the presidency of Peru. Political life turns out to be difficult and tedious for Alpacadula, so he decides to return to soccer and leave the presidency to his vice-president, Tigre Gareca. Finally, the other auquenidos of the puna decide that they are fed up with being excluded from the politics that is managed between alpacas and tigers, so they call themselves to march, and manage to call new general elections to decide the future of the country.
The story of Alpacadula was born on the first day of the Induction Program, during a creative exercise to break the ice. Like a chain, one person begins to tell a story and passes the word to someone else, and so we create it together. Between laughter and jokes, the personal interests of each person were intertwined with the problems of the country: the instability of politics, the cultural importance of soccer, the impulse of self-convening to participate… all provoked by a photo of an adorable alpaca with a T-shirt and a mask. It was a beautiful moment of collective creation of which nothing remains but the memory, because in our excitement to start the induction program we forgot to play the recording.
Alpacadula taught us our first lesson: always record the session.
We knew this was not a class and yet it felt like the first day of school, nervous to start something new. Alpacadula did an excellent job of building trust and establishing that this is a space to learn and collaborate with each other, we just needed to explain the rules of the game:
- This induction program serves to refresh academic research concepts and elaborate a tentative research plan according to a topic of interest.
- Each participant must present progress in each session to receive feedback from their peers and members of the organizing team.
- Whoever completes the induction program with a research plan becomes part of the laboratory.
I confess that I needed the induction program as much as I needed the participants. It has been seven years since I last did academic research, with the thesis project that I abandoned to the disappointment of my Seminar 2 professor (sorry, Juanfer). Since then I have continued researching on my own in several projects that understood the word “research” in a completely different way than what we were taught in Methods, in processes that culminated in bodies in motion and not in an academic paper. And in a way also, I must admit, much less structured. The last time I had heard the word “methodology” was in Shakira’s Ciega Sordomuda, so I prepared my canchita (elegantly off-camera) to sit down to remember and relearn.
In the second session we engaged in a debate on what is meant by research in communications. We divided into groups to approach from different angles the opportunities and challenges that communication research poses, in conversation both with other colleagues and with the texts that had been sent to read previously. For the third session we had to define topic, problem and research question. We asked them to come up with ideas about topics to decide on during the session, and this turned out to be the most difficult part because of the abundance of good ideas to choose from. Each group room had a multitude of topics that provoked us to develop: from anime narratives to presidential elections to responses to COVID to transfeminist parties. With the help of feedback from their peers and the organizing team, each participant was finally able to choose a topic, and the real work began.
For the fourth and fifth sessions, things got serious: it was time to formulate questions, objectives and hypotheses, in order to work on a methodological design. It was around these sessions that the desertions began, as the time and effort required by the laboratory became evident. We knew this was going to happen, because to commit to a project like this requires a lot of passion and dedication. Of the twenty-five people who created Alpacadula, fourteen were left creating their research plans; coincidentally, all of them were women.
In the sixth session, we added to the details by discussing the possible products they could present** and the need to establish a work schedule. However, the most important moment was when we asked them to honestly assess their capabilities as researchers and the tools they have for the work they are considering. The vast majority reported feeling capable of carrying out their plans with what they had learned in the Induction Program, and emphasized the importance of the accompaniment space to keep them motivated. In our last session of the Induction Program there was an air of celebration, like the glorious end of an arduous journey, although the journey had just begun. With the research plans already completed, all that remained was for the participants to commit and take on the challenge.
Happily, they all did.
ALPACADULA PHOTO: Montúfar, U. (December 6, 2021). From Desde Chiluyo, Mazocruz, Zona Alpaquera Aymara. Les presento a GIANLUCA, hincha de Lapadula y de la selección Peruana. Arriba Perú. Facebook https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10223555568255445&set=a.10202929250090382&type=3
Check the Comunica Investiga Lab rules of the game at: https://comunicainvestigalab.com/nosotros/#objetivos
** Check out our examples of academic outreach products at: https://comunicainvestigalab.com/productos-de-difusion-academica/
See other academic resources at: https://comunicainvestigalab.com/en/resources/