Updates from May, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 1:25 pm on May 29, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    CCIG Event: John Holmwood on Markets, Expertise and the Public University, 28 June at the OU 

    Markets, Expertise and the Public University: A crisis in knowledge for democracy?

     Wednesday 28 June 2012, 14.00-17.00

    Open University, Milton Keynes, Library Seminar Rooms, 1&2

    The Creating Publics project was launched in March 2012 with the aim of innovating new ways of engaging publics in the on-going processes of social science research and public life. For the 3rd Creating Publics keynote lecture we are delighted to welcome Professor John Holmwood (University of Nottingham).


    14:00                 Welcome and introduction:  Prof. Jef Huysmans & Dr. Nick Mahony (CCIG)

    14:10                 Keynote lecture: Prof. John Holmwood (University of Nottingham)

    15:00                 Response by Prof. John Clarke and Dr. Vron Ware (CCIG)

    15:30                 Q & A and collective discussion

    The event will be followed by a drinks reception.

    In the spirit of public experimentation that this project promotes, the event will be webcast live and accessible here.

    Those viewing online will be able to post questions and comments, which will be relayed live to the event.

    To register, to attend in person please email socsci-ccig-events@open.ac.uk

    For further information on the event and an outline of Prof. Holmwood’s lecture, please go to our website.

  • Mark 5:38 pm on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Upcoming social media training workshops at the University of Warwick 

    Digital Change GPP Workshops for University of Warwick Researchers

    An introduction to multi-author blogging
    Tuesday, May 29th, 12pm to 1pm
    Research Exchange, Seminar Room 2
    Register for the event here

    Introduction to academic podcasting
    6th June, 12pm to 1pm
    Research Exchange, Seminar Room 1
    Register for the event here

    Demystifying social media
    18th June, 2pm to 4pm
    Research Exchange, Seminar Room 2
    Register for the event here

    Blogging for researchers
    25th June, 12pm to 2pm
    Research Exchange, Seminar Room 1
    Register for the event here

  • Mark 5:23 pm on May 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Postmodernism and the Three ‘Pomo Flips’ 

    Faced with theoretical or philosophical positions that seem untenable, it is tempting to counter them by reversing or inverting them, for example, responding to empiricism’s belief in the rooting of knowledge in empirical observation by claiming knowledge to be independent of observation and observation to be wholly dependent on discourses. This strategy retains the problematic structures which generated the problems in the first place […] Defeatist postmodernism typically defines itself in opposition to ‘foundationalism’, ‘objectivism’, and those who claim privileged access to ‘the truth’. In reacting against this, it then flips over into an anti-realism which rules out any possibility of empirical/practical evaluation and makes truth relative to discourse.

    Realists also reject naive objectivism, but as we argued in the previous chapter, this need not make us flip over into relativism or idealism, or make us doubt the possibility of scientific progress or abandon the Enlightenment project. I shall call the former reaction a ‘pomo flip’, but there are other pomo flips too: from a rejection of grand narratives or totalizing discourses to an incapacitating fragmentation of the world and its discourses; and from a rejection of ethnocentrism, androcentrism and imperialism to an equally self-defeating cultural and judgmental relativism.

    Andrew Sayer, Realism and Social Science, Pg 67-68

  • Mark 1:14 pm on May 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Postdoctoral Funding Workshop 

    31st May 12 noon to 3:30 pm (including lunch between 12 and 1)
    Scarman House

    This event has been designed to give attendees the ability to produce competitive Post-Doc funding applications by giving them the chance to listen to, and interact with, more experienced colleagues who have won Post-doc awards.

    Matthew Watson is Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Politics and International Studies. After a period running the department’s PhD programme and trying to incorporate advice on professional socialisation into the day-to-day running of that programme, he became the department’s first dedicated Director of Postdoctoral Programmes.This is a post he held for three years before passing it on to a committee of colleagues to oversee its future development. The department has been extremely successful since investing its staff time heavily in nurturing its postdoctoral programme, and this year it has eighteen fully-funded postdocs working for it.

    The main points that Matthew will address will be those that relate to the all-important question from the prospective applicant’s perspective of ‘what do I need to do to put myself in the best possible position to secure postdoc funding?’.

    More specifically the issues that he will talk about will be those of:

    1. Mindset
    2. CV management before the application stage
    3. Departmental support
    4. Tailoring the application to the demands of the particular funder

    Three winners of Post-Doc funding awards will also be sharing their experiences and insights. This event will be interactive in style and attendees will therefore get a chance to ask their more experienced colleagues the questions about the issues that are most important to them

    Register for the workshop here

  • Mark 9:21 am on May 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: inner dialogue, , margaret s archer, ,   

    Relationality and Reflexivity 

    What we are attempting to accomplish is to marry our concerns to a way of life that allows their realization, a way of life about which we can be wholehearted, investing ourselves in it with each personifying its requirements in our and unique manner. Hence we gain and maintain some governance over our own lives. This is a supremely reflexive tasks, entailing ‘strong evaluation’ of our social context in the light of our concerns and adjusting these concerns in the light of our circumstances.

    Whilst everyone has to do this for themselves reflexively through their internal conversations, that does not imply that subjects have to do it alone. To engage in inner dialogue is to activate our personal powers but that does not make any of us individualistic monads. We all receive and use external information, we all engage in external as well as internal conversation and, above all, being human refers to a quintessentially relational being. Our human relations and the relationality between them form part of both our internal and our external conversations.

    The Reflexive Imperative, Pg 15. Margaret S. Archer.  

    Although reflexivity is a capacity of individuals, its exercise is not explicable in reductively individualistic terms. Not least of all because the process of coming to a modus vivendi, shaping a life within which the things that matters to us can cohere together in a satisfying and sustainable way, involves articulation. To understand what matters to us, what projects we can pursue to actualise these concerns and how to make a life for ourselves which incorporates them, we must elaborate a sense of who we are. Without others who are similarly occupied, attempting to articulate their personal identities and shape a life congruent with them, how could we do this? The relational dimension to human being doesn’t define our existence but it is both the spur to and the necessary condition for this struggle for self-definition. The meaningfulness of interiority is the flipside to our sociality.

  • Mark 7:21 pm on May 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Wherefore Art Thou Elvis? 

    I cut my teeth on the stone of a teenage romance
    I was the salt of the earth, I was hard, and the last of the independents
    And the breath from my chest I was blowing kerosene
    My lips and fingertips were stone, I wore my heart on my jeans
    I sang the blues like the dogs left too long in the street
    I still sing the blues with the dogs

    And I got half a mind to let it all burn up in this fire
    That’s been burning through my veins since I first learned to cry
    I’d watch this whole night come down and never miss her again
    I never felt right and never fit in
    Walking in my own skin

    Now I got scars like the number of stars, my mind’s full of vipers
    I got the dust of the desert in my bones, coming through the amplifiers
    Between the minor chord fall and the fourth and the fifth
    It’s a broken Hallelujah and a pain in my fist
    I wash my hands like the man with the blood on his teeth
    Over and over without relief

    And I got nothing for you darling but a story to tell
    About the rain on the pavement and the sound as it fell
    I’d watch this whole night come down and never miss her again
    I never felt right and never fit in

    Walking in my old man shoes, with my scientist heart
    I got a fever and a beaker and a shot in the dark
    I need a Cadillac ride, I need a soft summer night
    Say a prayer for my soul, Señorita

    Because I’ve been dying out here in the cold and the snow
    I’ve got a picture of you, Mama, to remind me of home
    On the hood of a Dodge on a Saturday night
    Say a prayer for my soul, Señorita

  • Mark 3:21 pm on May 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , research agendas, , ,   

    Continuous Publishing, Open Research and Impact (part 2) 

    Part 2 of this post. I had to stop writing because the battery on my phone was dying. Though the fact that I can write part 1 of the post (on my phone in a coffee shop in Manchester while waiting for a train) and write part 2 of the post (from a desktop computer in Coventry later that evening) and this constitutes my preparation for a talk the following day is a practical example of what I’m driving at with the continuous publishing notion.

    • At the level of the individual, continuous publishing doesn’t in principle represent any additional workload. One of the most frequent questions I’ve encountered when running social media workshop is “how do you find the time?”. Increasingly all my research related blogging and tweeting is part of the research process itself, rather than something external to it. I use blog posts in particular as a notebook within which to record and develop thoughts. I have a large collection of notebooks from the first half of my PhD filled with often illegible notes and an iPad filled with mindmaps. The only difference with how I now use my blog is that the entries are indexed, easier to read and available to the wider world.
    • Two important consequences flow from this. Firstly I take more care about articulating ideas because others can read them and, furthermore, it’s easier to do this because my typing keeps up with my thoughts whereas my handwriting often doesn’t (at least not if I’m trying to ensure their legibility later). Secondly categorising and tagging my posts inculcates reflexivity about the research process. It helps elaborate a sense of research agendas, as well their different sub strands, which is useful in a purely intellectual sense, as well as being helpful for forming practical publishing projects that can flow from them. It also inculcates reflexivity about your work flow: prior to consciously embracing continuous publishing, my experience of research involved a cycle between an (overly) chaotic process of putting together raw materials & threading them together and an (overly) structured process of fitting these into the formal requirements of journals, publishers, the PhD etc. Now it feels much more unified. I understand the different things I do more, the conditions amenable to them and how this all fits into a coherent sector of my life ‘research’ as distinct from other sectors. It helps put research in a box, though not in a way that feels restrictive. It also helps you work from anywhere and fit the fragments together in a unified way at a time that’s convenient for you.
    • I think there’s a general and often quite vague fear about sharing on the internet which I”ve encountered a lot when running workshops. I don’t share it. Perhaps I’m being hopelessly naive but, in my mind, if you share your work in some venues, why not share it in others? I don’t think the internet is filled with nefarious academic predators waiting to steal your ideas as soon as you let your guard down. I do however think it’s filled with an enormous range of academics, far more diverse than any network you can encounter in face-to-face settings, who are just as eager to find direct and indirect interlocutors as I assume you are. Even if there are risks I think they’re manifestly outweighed by the benefits which accrue from open research. I passionately believe sharing can and should be a default option. It’s an impulse implicit in the act of publishing and, in so far as we are hesitant about it, I’d suggest that’s a consequence of social structures relating to academic careers, auditing and scholarly publishing perverting the practice of intellectual craftsmanship: making cultural products and sharing them.
    • In technical terms I think all you need to do continuous publishing is a blog and a twitter account. Link the two together and you posses an incredibly potent publishing platform which is free and entirely within your own control. Use twitter to follow people whose work you find interesting and who, perhaps, will find your work interesting. Once you post twitter updates for your new blog posts and discuss them with others, an audience will quickly begin to develop.
    • In doing so I think you maximise your online footprint and impact flows quite naturally from this. People know what work you’re doing, will often refer others to you, it helps publicise your books & papers and you become known for working in your area. It also helps bridge the gap with the world outside the academy. The greater your social media footprint, the easier it is for journalists (and anyone else for that matter) to find your work and to make contact with you. In turn the greater your social media footprint is, the easier it is for those who encounter the ensuing media coverage to find you online by searching for your name and/or your research topic. It’s an incredibly potent form of disintermediation which, I suspect, has yet to really effect the academy in the work it is likely to with time.
  • Mark 10:51 am on May 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    Continuous Publishing, Open Research and Impact 

    Some initial thoughts for a talk i’m doing tomorrow:

    • what goes into producing a chapter or a paper? Lots of ideas, conversations, extracts from texts, chunks of writing etc. some of these have a social existence, in so far as they emerge out of formal or informal academic conversations, however most are private and few, if any, are meaningfully public?
    • why is this status as public largely restricted to such ‘formal’ outputs? Is it some intrinsic characteristic of the activities which go into producing a paper or a chapter? Inevitably some significant cross-disciplinary variation here which I don’t feel qualified to make a conclusive statement about because it is an empirical question. However

    I would contend that at least SOME of this largely private production can be ascribed to the restrictions of the communications infrastructure traditionally available to academics with these restrictions ossifying over time into seemingly ‘obvious’ norms of academic practice.

    • these norms tend to restrict dialogue to the post-publication stage which, given the opportunity costs involved in engaging seriously with a paper, inevitably restricts the dialogues that emerge
    • so why not try and seek dialogue at the pre publication stage? This would lead to a much broader array of dialogues because of the much lower opportunity costs attached to engaging with, say, a blog post rather than a paper

    In the rest of the talk I will discuss:

    • technical infrastructure required to do it
    • benefits and costs to individuals
    • its significance for impact
    • my own experiences of trying this
  • Mark 4:55 pm on May 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Protests against privatisation at Sussex University – Tuesday 22 and Thursday 24 – please spread the word! 

    Staff and students announce protests against University of Sussex privatisation 

    Staff and students at the University of Sussex will be protesting against plans to privatise university’s support services next week.  Campus trade unions today (Friday) announced there will be protests on Tuesday (22 May) and Thursday (24 May) at 1pm at the university’s library square (see notes for directions).  On both days potential bidders will visit the campus to assess ways they could take over the running of the affected departments.

    Yesterday (Thursday 17th May) staff and students packed a lunchtime lecture theatre to hear from union reps about management plans to privatise catering, estates and facilities management at Sussex University, transferring 235 workers, more than 10% of the workforce, from university employment to private contractors.

    Employees from caterers, to cleaners, to academic, administrative and maintenance staff, were furious to hear about proposals that threaten pensions, pay, conditions and job security, not to mention the quality and price of services, including in sensitive areas like security, and health and safety. Students attended and the Students Union joined the three trades unions, Unison, Unite and UCU.

    Union reps reported that alternatives to outsourcing appear not to have been openly considered and the idea that privatisation can improve quality and reduce costs seems to have been uncritically accepted despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

    Spokesperson for the three unions, Maureen Winder (Unison branch secretary), said “If staff become employees of a private company their future pension rights and working conditions will change significantly, and we will have a two-tier workforce, as new staff will be employed on different terms and conditions. The plans were sprung upon us with no discussion about finding solutions in-house. The university seems determined to outsource regardless of the impact on quality or future costs, and this is devastating for the whole University community.”
    Sign the petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-our-services/

    http://tinyurl.com/c7z38eo – directions to library square

    Statement by the trades unions: http://www.sussex-ucu.org.uk/?q=content/privatisation-estates-facilities-management-and-catering-services

    Letter from the Students Union to the Vice Chancellor: http://www.sussexstudent.com/news/index.php?page=article&news_id=270243

  • Mark 2:00 pm on May 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , mr_hopkinson, pedagogical innovation, reflective dialogue, , , , visual metaphors   

    Using visual metaphor to explain how stuff works: what theorists can learn from beatboxing? 

    In this video the Beardyman, UK beat boxer renowned for his use of live looping, collaborates with the visual artist mr_hopkinson to visually describe the practice. As someone who is fascinated by this kind of music but had never understood how it works, I was incredibly impressed by the articulacy of the visual message. The video communicates embodied practical knowledge through a metaphor which communicates the essence of the practice: using the technology at a given moment to assemble and coral an army of performance fragments (fragmented performers?) which can be arranged into a performance over time which is much more than the sum of its parts. While I’m obviously not suggesting that social theorists try and take up beatboxing (the image makes me shudder) I do think there’s a prodigious creativity in this video’s use of visual description which can, in an indirect way, be learned from.

    Although vivid metaphorical language can be found in some areas of social theory, it is far from consistent and, in my experience, there’s little reflective dialogue about how such communicative techniques can and should be used effectively. Too often visual metaphors in social theory simply don’t work. Likewise, when they do the lack of deliberate reflection about the pedagogical dimensions to their use often means that their success in illuminating ideas to people already inhabiting that conceptual landscape goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of further barriers to people outside that approaching coming ot understand the ideas within it. Which I write having finally got my head around Deleuze after years of being scornful. Given the increasingly imperilled place of theory in the academy, there’s an important conversation to be had about rhetorical and pedagogical innovation.

  • Mark 1:23 pm on May 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Boomboxes and Dictionaries 

    I took a drive today, thought about you.
    Thought about a friend who passed, and how much we just went through.
    I saw the sun shine off the hood of a cadillac,
    I thought about some things i’d say, and some i would take back.
    I thought about how fortunate i feel to be alive.

    And if you’re scared of the future tonight,
    We’ll just take it each hour one at a time.
    It’s a pretty good night for a drive,
    So dry up those eyes, dry up those eyes.
    Because the radio will still play loud,
    Songs that we heard as our guards came down.
    Like in the summertime when we first met,
    I’ll never forget, don’t you forget,
    These nights are still ours.

    I still love the way you smile.
    I still love the ocean.
    We should remember to slow down more often, maybe we will.
    There’s a lotta good things coming our way right now.
    A lotta bad had passed but we survived the breakdowns.
    All is forgiven, water under bridges now.

  • Mark 12:43 pm on May 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Deadline Approaching FWSA 2012 Small Grants Scheme for Postgraduates 

    The FWSA is now offering a small grant of £250 for workshops, seminars, conferences and networks organised by and aimed at postgraduate students. This money can be used for a variety of purposes and can be used alongside other awards. The lead organizers named on the application form must be FWSA members at the time the application and at the time the initiative is to take place.

    The deadline for applications is 1st June 2012 and decisions will be communicated by 1st July 2011. Enquiries should be sent to administrator@fwsa.org.uk and submissions must be made electronically to the same address.

    For entry requirements and detailed guidelines, please refer to the attached postcard. For application forms and joining options visit: http://www.fwsa.org.uk

  • Mark 12:41 pm on May 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Asexualities: a training day for therapists 

    Please forward this training event to all your colleagues. Many thanks.


    • Do you have an understanding of asexuality?
    • What is the place of intimacy and amorous or romantic relationships within asexualities?
    • What is your current thinking around sexual desire?


    Asexuals are making themselves heard and thus are redefining what we understand by intimacy, desire, sexual arousal, love and sex.

    Olivier led a research in asexuality for Pink Therapy concluding in the receipt of 310 testimonials and narratives.

    Asexualities are counter-cultural in our hypersexed communities and societies where low sex desire seems to be taboo.


    At the end of this training day, participants will:

    • be introduced to diverse narratives around asexualities,
    • develop an understanding of asexuality and its relationship to desire, arousal and intimacy,
    • be able to deconstruct heteronormative and patriarchal assumptions around sexuality,
    • gain a knowledge and appreciation of difficulties asexuals may encounter,
    • develop non-pathologising clinical skills in working therapeutically with asexualities.


    The workshop will include experiential exercises, critique of diagnosis on sexual desire dysfunctions, role-plays, and reflection on theories of sexuality.


    I look forward to meeting you on this training day:



    Venue: Spiral Holistic Therapy Centre 2 Shelburne Road London N7 6DL

    (Directions and parking information: http://www.spiralcentre.org)


    Date:  Sunday15th July 2012


    Times: 10.30am – 5.30pm


    Fees: £100


    CPD: 6 hours


    Booking: Please email olivier.counselling@hotmail.com


    Olivier Cormier-Otaño (MBACP Accred) is an integrative and relational counsellor and a psychosexual therapist in private practice. He is an Advanced Accredited Sexual Diversity Therapist with Pink Therapy with whom he studied on the Certificate in sexual Minority therapy. Olivier has written published chapters on Gender and Sexual Diversity including Asexualities for various publications.


    • Martin 12:36 am on February 26, 2013 Permalink

      Admiring the persistence you put into your blog and in depth information you present.

      It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t
      the same unwanted rehashed material. Fantastic read!
      I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds
      to my Google account.

  • Mark 12:39 pm on May 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    New public engagement website announcement – Hiding in the Pub to Cutting the Cord? 

    We’re delighted to announce that we’ve recently published a collection of memories of childbirth, as part of a public engagement project. This is entitled ‘Hiding in the Pub to Cutting the Cord? Fatherhood and Childbirth in Britain, from the 1950s to the Present’, and is currently being undertaken at the Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick.

    Please visit http://go.warwick.ac.uk/chmfatherhood to learn more about the project – click on the ‘Memories’ tab to read about childbirth stories over the past decades. We’re also still looking for participants – parents of any age can fill in a quick questionnaire about their experiences of childbirth on the above site.

    This project aims to examine the apparently rapid and dramatic transformation in men’s roles in childbirth since the mid-twentieth century, to dispel myths around fatherhood in history, and to engage the public in debates about family life. The project also includes a publication and exhibition of fathers’ poetry produced in a series of workshops with local publisher Nine Arches Press, working with the theatre company Babakas on a piece called ‘Our Fathers’ to be performed at the Warwick Arts Centre in June, and a conference on parenting for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers in September.

  • Mark 7:08 pm on May 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Gender and Sport seminar, Friday 18th May, University of Warwick 

    This is  just a reminder that Centre for the Study of Women and Gender is hosting an afternoon seminar on “Gender and Sport” on Friday 18th May, 2012 in Ramphal 3.41, from 2-5pm. Attendance is free, and everyone is welcome – please drop me an e-mail if you’d like to attend so we can order enough biscuits! 

    Speakers include:

    Dr Louise Mansfield, Brunel University
    Walking out: sport, physical activity and health legacies for girls and women post “London 2012”

    Professor Tess Kay, Brunel University
    Go girl! Critiquing the use of sport for female empowerment in international development

    Dr Belinda Wheaton, Brighton University
    Lifestyle sports, gendered bodies and the politics of identity

    Dr Karen Throsby, University of Warwick
    “Man up”: marathon swimming and the gendered body

    Please circulate the poster around anyone who you think might be interested. If you would like to come, please drop me an e-mail (k.throsby@warwick.ac.uk) so that we have an idea of numbers.

  • Mark 3:07 pm on May 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , musical worlds, , post-punk, , , , ,   

    Podcast – Exploring the Emergence of Underground Musical Worlds 

    From the Sociology@Warwick Seminar Series in May 2012.

    Nick Crossley from Manchester University discusses his use of social network analysis to explore the early development of punk and post-punk musical worlds in the UK. Read more about this research here and here.

  • Mark 3:00 pm on May 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Isn’t this civilised? 

    How civilised, as the Islington middle classes mindlessly parrot. You give the cunts a glass of wine and switch the fire on, and they say: ‘This is civilised.’ They cut some fucking pieces of ciabatta with a knife, and they go: ‘Isn’t this civilised?’

    And you want to go: no, you daft cunt, no it’s fucking well not, because civilisation extends beyond pouring wine and cutting bread and what you’re really talking about is simply leisure and relaxation.

    – Irvine Welsh, Porno

  • Mark 1:02 pm on May 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , bob carter, humans and other animals, nickie charles, ,   

    The Sociology of Animals and Why It Matters – Podcast with Nickie Charles and Bob Carter 

    In this podcast for Sociology@Warwick I talk to Bob Carter and Nickie Charles about their new book Humans and Other Animals. A paper on this subject written by Nickie Charles is available online here.


  • Mark 4:18 pm on May 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Window on Research: Dave O’Brien on Cultural Consumption in Contemporary Society 

    This podcast discusses cultural consumption in contemporary British society, exploring who does what and why, against the backdrop of the ethos of creative workers. The cultural ‘omnivore’ thesis is outlined and critiqued, suggesting the importance of expertise, social status and social class to understand cultural consumption.

    The podcast links consumption to production by linking creative industries to the rise of entrepreneurialism and the importance of the concept of the creative worker as a response to ongoing dilemmas within the British economy.  It unpacks the ambivalences of creative labour, outlining issues of exploitation, self-management and conceptions of failure associated with precarious labour, but contrasts these issues with the pleasures of creative work and the idea of ‘good’ work as a way to understand the emancipatory potential offered by creative work.

    Running throughout the podcast is a description of the limits of social scientific attempts to measure participation and consumption of culture in Britain today, how those attempts may constitute as well as describe our understanding of cultural consumption, and the effects of the digital revolution in distribution on measuring participation.

    Creative Work and Cultural Participation (part 1)

    Creative Work and Cultural Participation (part 2)

    The issue in the media

    Cultural consumption and the omnivore

    Cultural work:

    Dr O’Brien is a Lecturer in Cultural and Creative Industries at City University London. He specialises in cultural value and urban cultural policy issues and has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Liverpool. His undergraduate degree is in history and politics, and his MA is in philosophy.

  • Mark 3:19 pm on May 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , conceptual architecture, conceptualisation, , , empirical adequacy, explanatory methodology, , , theoretical definitions,   

    Explanatory Methodology 

    1. What cultural resources play a role in the lives of participants?
    2. How do they enable and constrain the commitments, projects and modus vivendi of participants? This constraint and enablement is mediated through internal conversation.
    3. Which cultural resources under which circumstances lead to personal morphogenesis? How do the former and the latter relate in leading to this outcome?
    4. Which cultural resources under which circumstances lead to personal morphostasis? How do the former and the latter relate in leading to this outcome?

    These are the core questions I want to address through my data analysis. At present I have theoretical definitions of the concepts I’m drawing on here (developed from the work of Archer, Elder-Vass, Layder, Sayer and others) but my intention is to use the empirical case study (five interviews with 18 participants over two years) to elaborate upon these concepts in an iterative fashion. In a way my particular focus is the relations between the concepts.

    Given the necessity of a conceptual architecture in explaining social outcomes, even though much or all of this is often tacit, it stands to reason that the empirical adequacy of those concepts is key to the explanatory utility. Yet even if we explicitly design a conceptual architecture, unless it is (a) relational (b) empirically adequate then it is going to be unhelpful when we use it in our attempts to explain empirical phenomena which are intrinsically relational. So the concepts have to be fleshed out and revised in dialogue with empirical data but so too do the relations between those concepts, otherwise modes of causation through which the empirical phenomena we’re attempting to conceptualise interrelate risk being occluded because our the range of objects and relations admitted within our conceptual architecture exclude to some degree the objects and relations we’re actually studying. We either exclude them entirely or impute characteristics to them conceptually because there’s no place within our framework for them.  It’s impossible to operate without some kind of conceptual architecture, a simplified map of the kinds of things we’re studying and the kinds of relations that obtain between them:

    Even if someone claims they don’t have this, they do. If we’re capable of talking about X in a way which gets beyond a finite set of descriptive statements about X then we do so on the basis of some underlying conceptualisation of X, even if we remain blissfully ignorant of what these concepts are. Even descriptive statements themselves presuppose concepts (e.g. “describe what you see when you look up”… “the sky is overcast, it looks like it’s about to rain” ) in that they move from the particularity of the object being described to some general(ish) statement about the kinds of characteristics embodied by said object. However at this level, it’s not really architecture as such. Or at least not most of the time.

    However when it comes to explanation, not merely describing X but offering some account of how X subsequently became Y, the architecture comes into play. In so far as that we’re offering an account of a transition, it necessitates some statement of the objects party to that transition, as well as the relations which obtain between them. It’s at this point that the conceptual architecture we’re working with becomes crucial. Imagine this is a representation of the process we’re studying:

    If we try and explain the process depicted above in terms of the conceptual architecture depicted previously then a problem occurs. If the process under investigation involves objects of a kind we have no place for in our conceptual architecture and/or relations between objects which we have no conceptual account of then one of two things happens: the object and/or relation doesn’t enter into our explanation OR the process of explaining our empirical data leads us to impute or ignore characteristics to the objects/relations because we make sense of them in terms of concepts that are fundamentally incongruent with them.

    I realise this all sounds very abstract. But the difficulty in talking about this kind of issue is quite interesting in its own right. There’s a general history of neglect within sociology when it comes to explanatory methodology. I’m not talking about methods, methodology or theory. I’m talking about the practice which links those things together in a reflexive way in the process of conducting social research. We all do it, we all engage implicitly with the meta-theoretical issues entailed by it and yet the lack of a clear and well-grounded discourse about how to do this is a major impediment to good social research. I think people obviously still do good social research in spite of this problem. 

    Some of the reasons for the problem are pretty obvious. The weird attitudes towards social theory that’s way too common (at least anecdotally) is an issue, as unless people actually engage properly with theory they’re never going to get beyond the stage of seeing it as pointless abstraction. Conversely, theorists who do actually engage in pointless abstraction (also far too common) and particularly the pointless self-congratulatory obfuscation that can sometimes go hand-in-hand with this obviously doesn’t help. I think there’s also some really interesting historical reasons for this, in terms of the changing institutional structures and cultural significance of sociology inquiry, not to mention the way various antinomies of enlightenment thought have worked themselves out over the intellectual history of sociology. Definitely stuff I want to write about properly at some point. But more immediately, explanatory methodology needs to be made a part of research methods training.  

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