dinsdag 2 oktober 2012

Which terms, whose terms?

Words matter, as Carol Gluck's and Anna Tsing's global lexicon "Words in Motion" exemplifies. How which words matter where in our research was the topic we talked about during the last walking seminar in Breukelen.

Which terms, whose terms?

There it is your object of research. But how to call it? And, more generally, in which terms to talk and write about it? Terms, notions, words differ between theoretical traditions, between academia and field, between one field and another. So, what to do? How to navigate these differences?

What words do your informants use to talk about the object you are interested in? Or, which different words - and how do the words differ? Are there (contrasting) word-experts? Are there typical practices where either one term or the other is prominent? When do you bring out these differences and when do you gloss over them?

What kind of practices are there in your field where your object, rather than talked about, is dealt with in other ways?

And then there are the "theoretically informed" literatures, where your object becomes related to notions such as "ontology", "aesthetics" or "subjectivity". Which are the theoretical issues that are at stake in the literature written about your object? What ways are there to engage with these notions? What ways are there to shift them?

vrijdag 14 september 2012

The case

A couple of days ago we headed off to Breukelen where we discovered a newly built ferry. Next to having fun with this mobile gadget we discussed some tricky questions.

Most of us talk-walkers work on a case. A case is neither unique, nor representative. So, what is a case? And what does it imply to do a case study?

Which case studies in the literature do you find inspiring? How do the authors present their case? What about that is similar to / different from other case studies?

What is the case you are studying and of what is it a case? What is specific about it? What does it share with other cases?

In which ways does your case study differ from other methods that you come across in the literature on your topic?

Oh, you are not doing a case study? Good. Which form does your research take? And what are the differences with case studies?

woensdag 4 juli 2012

New dates

The next walking seminars will take place on the following days:

31st August
21st September
17th October (before the 4S/EASST conference in Copenhagen)

Wicked words

 Not long ago we headed off to Castricum for another walk through the Dutch countryside. While moving our legs, our thoughts circled around the topic of language and materiality.

These were our questions:

What to do with language? 
During our fieldwork we gather material of different kinds. We interview people and listen to their accounts. We also observe, pay attention to things, objects, materialities. But how to relate these different kind of "data" with each other? Or, in other words, what to do with language?

What are the strength and weaknesses of language as material and in the material?
How to get at events, objects, materiality through language, for instance interviews?
But/and also how to situate language, for instance interviews, in relation to other kinds of material, observations, artifacts from the field, pictures?

maandag 14 mei 2012

Collecting words

What a heterogeneous group that had gathered for this walking seminar! The stories from the field and the people came from Lancaster and Japan, New York City and Mali, Bangladesh and New Newfoundland, Amsterdam and Utrecht, Europe and Afghanistan, Cameroon and Paris, Madrid and Barcelona, Brazil and India, Sweden and Belgium, Cambodia and the United States.

The format of the conversations was slightly different this time. Instead of discussing a topic, we talked about words. Everybody had brought three words that are decisive for her/his research project which made us end up talk about:

social rist

dinsdag 10 april 2012

The empirical in Brooklyn

Did you ever wonder what the "empirical" part of your "empirical research" was all about? This is the topic we discussed about while walking through Brooklyn, or, at least, the Dutch original version of it: Breukelen.

How is empirical research empirical?

Over the course of our research we collect material. We interview people, observe practices or gather other kinds of "data", papers, pictures, numbers. We do "empirical" research. But how?

What is "empirical" about your research? What kind of material do you use? What kind of material do you find easy to engage with? Which one is more difficult?

How do you mobilize your material? How do you mobilize it in papers? How in conference presentations or discussion?

What do you make your material do? Does it guide the reader or disconcert him/her? Does it convince, demonstrate, puzzle or to upset the reader?

And what does your material make of you – and of your plans, politics and theories?

donderdag 8 maart 2012

new dates

The dates for the next walking seminars have been set:

30th March
13th April
16th May

What has not been decided yet are the walks that we will take. Any suggestions?

dinsdag 21 februari 2012

Attending to appreciations

Appreciations are everywhere. Diners enjoy a tasty dish in the restaurant, readers love a book at night times, and commuters stop their hasty pace to listen to a string quartet playing in the underground corridors of the subway network. But how to think of such moments of appreciation? How to write about them? These were the challenges we faced during our last walking seminar to the sea where snow, sand and water variously lay upon each other.

Before this walking seminar Annemarie had sent around a brand new not yet published (or reviewed!) article with the title: Is het lekker? Articulating appreciation. The paper itself concentrates on the issue of articulating appreciation. Its main concern is with relations between ‘language’ and ‘bodies’. It has been written for a special issue of Theory, Culture & Society with the title Social theory after Strathern. Engaging with the work of Marilyn Strathern, the article demonstrates how tracing a term (here: lekker) may be a way to link up sites and situations without seeking a ‘structure’ beneath them. It also plays with what it is to write in one language (here English) about field work done in another (here Dutch).

During the discussion in the morning and the walk in the afternoon we talked about the article a little bit. But we mainly used it as a good occasion to think about the relevance of “appreciations” in our own varied research projects and, from this, develop a lot of new questions that arise from attending to appreciations in practice.

dinsdag 17 januari 2012

Dangerous expectations

Walking is dangerous. Snow and avalanches are serious threats in the Alps. The water and inundations can become a real peril in the Netherlands and had been warned of when we headed off for the walking seminar. But as it turned out we were lucky. The water level was extraordinary high, yet the paths had remained dry.

While walking we talked about - sometimes also dangerous - expectations of audiences.

There is your research. You know what you have done so far, what you are doing at the moment and what your plans are for the next couple of month. In other words: You know what this is all about. But not so others. Your colleagues or professors, your friends or family have little knowledge, sometimes no clue about what your research is about. As you meet them you give short descriptions, introductions and explanations. Then, you hear comments and remarks. These moments of encounter are both, brief and instructive.

How do you introduce your research topic to which audience? For instance, what do you say in academic research seminars and what to "the public", your family sitting next to the Christmas tree? What do you have to explain where?

Once you have introduced your topic, what are the comments that you hear most often? What does your audience expect? For example, what approach do they assume that you take? Or which topics/chapters might they expect in a thesis like yours?

In which ways do you fulfill these expectations? And more importantly: In which ways does your research differ? How can you steer the expectations? How do you frame your object in a way that clearly indicates what you are doing and what not?

And how - on a good day - might you even play with the expectations of your audiences?