Suis-je flâneur?

“Flanerie” flickr photo by IaninSheffield shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Several happenstances intersected to bring me to the point where I’m embarking on a different approach to my analysis which is more coherent with my overall study, as I outlined here. The purpose of this post is to put a little more flesh on the bones of the initial phase in which I explore data.

There were two strands which, though unconnected, brought me to this point. The first, as I mentioned in the previous post, was Martina mentioning the process of ‘data walking’ by Eakle (2007). The second was exchanges with Deborah and me becoming intrigued by her blog title, the édu flâneuse and then captured by the quote with which she subtitles it:

“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate observer, it’s an immense pleasure to take up residence in multiplicity, in whatever is seething, moving, evanescent and infinite: you’re not at home, but you feel at home everywhere, you’re at the centre of everything yet you remain hidden from everybody.” Baudelaire

When I began to explore further, there seems to a small but significant (and eclectic) body of research which draws on the notion of the flâneur in different ways. First it might help if I outline the origins:Read More »


Participant, contributor or co-researcher? Which are you?

“People Want Touch and Keyboard on Clamshell Devices” flickr photo by IntelFreePress shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

‘Human subject’ as a term still found in articles discussing ethics, or ‘participant observation’ from ethnographic literature hint at the source of some of my troubles this week. There have been a host of different people who have wittingly or otherwise become involved as my research has unfolded. How should I refer to them in my thesis? Subjects? Participants? Respondents? Informants? We are not short of terms and can go on from there to include interviewees, co-researchers, collaborators and many more. To some extent, it depends upon the research tradition within which your research is located. For example the British Sociological Association ethics guidance refers to research participants, as indeed does that from the British Psychological Society. The move away from talking about research ‘subjects’ acknowledges the agency that someone invited to participate in research has in determining their level of involvement and respects the contribution they make to the research endeavour. However, the term ‘human subject’ still persists in many disciplines and still forms one of the criteria used in decision-making processes when considering one’s ethical approach: ‘Does the research involve human subjects?’Read More »

There’s a *new* materialism?

“Sociology and New Materialism” flickr photo by IaninSheffield shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

At my last meeting, one of my supervisors suggested a book that he thought might inform my methodological chapter (whatever it ultimately gets called!): “Sociology and the New Materialism: Theory, Research, Action” by Fox and Alldred (2016). At the heart of the book is the notion that we might problematise the human as being central to the research endeavour. Someone must conduct the research, right? What Fox and Alldred offer however is a less anthropocentric view, where knowledge, rather than being revealed or constructed by a researcher, is produced by an “assemblage of things, people, ideas, social collectivities and institutions.” Here then I’ll try to summarise what I’ve learned from the book and what implications it might have for my research musings.Read More »

Crisis? What crisis?

“Ethnographic travels” by IaninSheffield is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

As I prepare for my supervisory meeting this week, I’m reminded of the previous meeting when I offered  this rendering (It’s a much smaller version of the full one and I’m far from happy with the way it displays what I want, but … well, compromise!). It’s an attempt to show some of the activity I’ve been engaged in as a participant observer, but also a little more than that. It serves several functions, providing:

  • a visual record of what came to my attention and whether I chose to interact;
  • direct hyperlinks back to the tweets, sites, posts or comments i.e. the original data which attracted my gaze;
  • a precis of the information/data behind that data point;
  • my observational comments – why it attracted my attention, what I thought and what I did; and
  • a kickstart of the process of analysis.

This sits alongside a slightly more conventional set of field notes, although much more brief than the notes which might usually accompany field work. I didn’t see them as needing to capture all the rich detail of the people in view – what they were doing and trying to achieve, what and how they communicated and so on. My notes certainly bear little resemblance to those of traditional ethnography, but then this isn’t a traditional ethnography.Read More »

I have a confession …

“Autumn Stream” flickr photo by Angus Thermopylae shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

A retweet dropped into my twitterstream the other day which immediately attracted my attention, headed as it was ‘Top 5 reasons to use Twitter.’ What were these reasons I of course wondered and what might they add to what I’ve already learned during my study? Now normally, at this point I’d embed the tweet for you to view before discussing how it had moved my learning forward, but not this time. Let me explain why.Read More »

Sentiment … ality?

During my pilot studies, a couple of findings suggested areas for further exploration I’d not previously considered. One of these was the degree to which people talking or writing about Twitter seemed to be ‘affected.’ Although it was not a topic I had gone looking for, nor had asked questions about, and although people rarely mentioned it explicitly, the language and terms they used implied some element of emotional response. Before I could take this much further, I needed to return to the literature and see how people have discussed and/or researched the affective side of teacher learning.

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To do is to be?

flickr photo by benwerd shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Next Saturday is the 2016 Sheffield Institute of Education Doctoral Conference; I’m both co-organiser and  presenting a seminar. With my pilot study completed, and following a successful Confirmation of PhD seminar, I had a lot of potential topics from which to choose. In a weaker moment, I thought I’d talk about my preliminary findings, as revealed by the sociomaterial sensibility that Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is enabling me to bring. The tricky part is that I’ve been wrestling with conceptual approach all year. I guess that’s why I chose to use it to frame my talk; at some point I have to lay out my understanding to scrutiny so that any weaknesses are exposed and I can begin to do something about them. Unfortunately I only have 30 minutes in which to discuss my findings, AFTER having introduced a perhaps unfamiliar audience to ANT, using my only limited (current) understanding. Here then, with only the space afforded by a brief blog post, I’ll attempt to summarise what I intend to cover.

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On the case

flickr photo by Helene Valvatne Andas shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I’m currently working on a longer document (which may need a couple of posts) which will outline my analysis strategy. As I read through Miles, Huberman and Saldaña (2014) to explore background material and underpinning concepts, the notion of the ‘case’ came up and it struck me that I’ve not yet articulated clearly what for me will constitute a case. Perhaps this is an extension of the omission I discussed in a previous post where I’ve also failed to mention what I’m conducting an ethnography of? Time to attempt put things right.Read More »

Sometimes it’s the simplest questions …

flickr photo by caseorganic shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

In the Q&A following my Confirmation seminar one question floored me, perhaps because of its simplicity.

‘What is your ethnography an ethnography of?’

The answer to me was obvious, but because it was being asked by someone much more experienced and acknowledged than I, I assumed there must be more to the answer than the obvious. But perhaps it was more a case that I hadn’t actually stated that anywhere in my presentation and it simply needed laying out. So here’s my attempt to set that record straight.Read More »

SM&Society Day 2: Academia

flickr photo by ianguest shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

In the post break session,  four papers, each a work-in-progress, on the broad topic of social media in academia were given. I couldn’t help but notice two things: how they all drew from higher education contexts (perhaps that’s simply what ‘academia’ is) and how they were oriented towards the activities which lead to the production of data.

The first looked at the individual and collective factors contributing to use of social media by/in research teams. The second considered how imagined audience influenced social media participation. Next we heard how iSchool faculty members are connected by and participate in social media. Finally Sian Joel-Edgar explained the part played by social media in engineering student design teams.

Each seemed to be concerned, to different degrees, with what data were being produced. Additionally, how the data were produced, what the reasons for that were and in some cases, what outcomes there might be for the producers. All valuable information, but I was left wondering why the subjects (apologies for that term) might engage in the activity they do, and what the effects or impact might be on the recipients or audiences of their activity. Reflecting in this way helped me recognise and acknowledge my research philosophy which leans far more towards the interpretivist paradigm and exploring why a phenomenon is as it is, rather than what is occurring or how.

I know that conference attendees are largely from higher education contexts, but again I wonder where the studies are which, whilst still from educational contexts, focus their attention on different phases. The work is out there, but clearly not coming to the conference. Given what I said earlier, I’m pondering why that is? Are the topics presented in the conference from a higher educational context because that’s where conference audiences are from, or simply that’s where the researchers are? What (or where) are the audiences for research arising in different contexts? Now it’s occurred to me, I’ll be wanting to see whether that continues throughout the remainder of the conference.