Gardner, L. (2021). Intuitive inquiry: The overview effect, the COVID-19 pandemic and self-identity [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Middlesex University.

This qualitative study used intuitive inquiry to investigate the links between the Overview Effect experienced by astronauts in Space, the COVID-19 pandemic and self-identity. Secondarily the role of telematic communication in these phenomena was considered. This inquiry examined how the Overview Effect and the pandemic, as potentially perspective-shifting phenomena, might be linked to self-identity in a specific set of expatriates whose sense of identity had already been challenged by immigration. Four adult South African immigrants, residing in England during the pandemic, were selected using criteria which mirrored the experience of the researcher. Two interviews were conducted with each participant and audio-visual material was employed to introduce the Overview Effect. Drawing on Thematic Content Analysis, themes in the data included: awe and fear; stewardship of living Earth; separation versus connection; belonging; change and transformation. The findings suggest that a number of factors link the Overview Effect and COVID-19 pandemic with self-identity, as evidenced in accounts by these expatriates. The experience of immigrating encourages a shift in perspective, similar to that induced by the Overview Effect, with attenuated feelings of nationalism and increased sense of interconnectedness. The experience of COVID -19 pandemic lockdown measures has been seen to encourage acts of altruism among community members and heighten a sense of the fragility of mankind and planet Earth, much like the altered sense of self described by some astronauts having experienced the Overview Effect.

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