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Ambulant research, books and blogging

14/07/2008

Saturday was the 3rd LiveSociology workshop at Goldsmiths, London, focusing on ‘the way we use sound in the context of research’. We were a slightly depleted group due to the holiday season, but it was a good session, continuing a stimulating attack on the notion of sociology (‘the science of the interview’) as a text-only discipline of figures and words. I was particularly struck by several issues raised during the day.

The first is the notion of the ‘ambulant interviewer’. Prof Les Back discussed this in terms of a researcher physically interviewing on the move, and the place of sound in this. In my own research I realised this described my own use of the Internet during a (seated) interview in an alternative but useful way. Informing an interview with a Internet-enabled computer allows me and a participant to wander together online and respond to the onscreen environments we find ourselves in. Taking-the-computer-for-a-walk. I imagine that mobile technologies have already pushed ambulant research in different directions, as might immersive online environments, but I’ll certainly be looking at the methods literature in this area to discover how I can better inform my research.

Another issue raised relates to how research materials are assessed. Whilst some journals recognise the ways new media allow research to develop (I’m thinking particularly of Sociological Research Online here) I’m aware that I will be submitting my thesis as a book. This can account for a photo essay, diagrams, tables, maps, drawings. It is a flexible medium (very high resolution, strong internal/external reference systems with a battery life of several hundred years! etc. etc.), but the thesis does not replicate hypermedia, video, sound or temporality in the way a blog can. Should it? And what happens when you turn a blog into a book? Blurb offers such a service, and is reasonably priced. I love the idea of adding all this ephemeral material to a shelf as an artifact (proof I’m doing something?!), but what is lost? Could this qualify as an appendix for academic submission?

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