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PML slides webversion


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Slides for visit from Plymouth Marine Laboratory

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PML slides webversion

  1. 1. Working methodologically in environmental risk & sustainable energy research: inventive methods, material culture, & storymaking Professor Karen Henwood Other team members: Dr Chris Groves, Dr Fiona Shirani, Prof Nick Pidgeon (Social Sciences, Cardiff, UK) PLM visit, 7th March 2017
  2. 2. Our 3 research & public engagement projects • Making Sense of Sustainability – Environmental Futures Dialogue (AHRC Connected Communities, 2013-14 - an arts-social science network) • Energy Biographies (ESRC/EPSRC 2011-16) ( • Flexis (Wales European Funding Office Structural Funds – WEFO, 2015-2021)
  3. 3. Social scientific context – working methodologically … • Once confidently asserted positions, now questionable claims: - (no longer do) methodological choices drive/follow epistemological & ontological priors - (no longer do) methods derive solely from the nature of the questions asked - A demand for researcher reflexivity, which can take idealised or overly simplified forms
  4. 4. Interpretivist social science Investigates social (and psychosocial) phenomena: • To understand their emergent, contextualised and constructed/embedded meanings (and affect), rather than assuming these are self-evident to an ‘objective’ observer • i.e. problematises deep internalisation that issues of epistemology and ontology don’t even arise Makes available approaches & methods for investigating such meanings & affects • i.e. talk and text methods • includes methods for making intangible meanings visible
  5. 5. Socio-cultural perspective A methodological lens for: - paying attention to how local and wider cultural meanings play a role in constructing knowledge and reality - focussing on how wider discourses play a role in meaning-making and subject formation - brings a particular sensibility to investigating everyday sense-making
  6. 6. In qualitative social science, shifting questions guide knowledge framing …… • Without interpretivism, issues of epistemology and ontology do not arise, privileging silence and inattention (the positivist default) • Interpretivism’s commitment to an intersubjective reality remains a reasonable ontological claim • However, interpretive lenses (theory/discourses) may not get at the material dimension of social life • How to make interpretivist ways of working more accessible/comprehensible to any and all interested researchers?
  7. 7. Science & the shift to participatory culture • Modelling/mapping participatory methods to avoid dialogic and deficit models – towards "open-ended ecologies of participation” (Chilvers & Kearns, Eds, 2016) • Invitation to reflexivity about objects and models of research within wider participatory culture • Not the sole concern guiding how we practice our craft, but behaviour change is neither the deliberative nor reflective object in our EB's and Flexis work) • Our own research-public engagement model has its own methodological dynamics/knowledge-making aesthetic
  8. 8. Opening up methodological practices & storymaking through collaborations involving social science & the arts? • Traditional division of labour: researchers produce knowledge, arts helps communicate it • Alternative model: arts practitioners & researchers as knowledge intermediaries Peat Leith and Frank Vanclay (2015) “Translating science to benefit diverse publics: engagement pathways for linking climate risk, uncertainty and agricultural identities”. Science Technology and Human Values (40(6) 939-964
  9. 9. Four themes Complex subjectivity • Emotion/ affect • Attachment • Biography Obliquity • Creating conversations • ‘Questioning’ situations Reflexivity • Reflecting on assumptions • Performing methods Conviviality • ‘secure’ yet creative spaces • openness
  10. 10. Complex subjectivity • The basis of our approach • Human beings do not only make sense of their worlds by cognitive processing of information • E.g. emotional attachment rooted in bodily engagement Embodi- ment Emotion Cognition Imagination
  11. 11. Obliquity • On difficult topics like – sustainability, the future, climate change • But also engaging more aspects of the ways in which we experience the world ▫ Emotions ▫ Aesthetics ▫ Embodiment • Using objects and artefacts to create situations that are ‘questioning’
  12. 12. Conviviality • Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (1973) ▫ ‘autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment’ ▫ ‘individual freedom realized in personal interdependence • World cafes: secure spaces /creative spaces
  13. 13. Reflexivity • Social science (qual or quant) does not just discover data • It creates situations in which data are generated • Qual social science: opportunities for sense making • Situations in which methods and subjectivities are performed
  14. 14. Obliquity and creating data • Environmental Futures Dialogue project – how to talk about big, difficult issues like sustainability? • Worked with arts colleagues to create spaces, situations and objects to think with (Heim, 2004) • The importance of ‘cultural probes’ - using material objects and obliquely- related tasks • Convivial spaces alive to the unexpected • Sought to inspire stories, enhancing data elicitation Examples of cultural probes
  15. 15. Energy Biographies study (EBs)… • Energy policy and research all about making stories –stories of big and small transitions • EBs approach: asks ‘can biographical stories tell us about the complexities of change?’ & makes visible the intangibility of energy usage in everyday life? • 3 waves of multimodal engagement with participants over one year (2012-3) ▫ Participant photography of everyday energy use ▫ Viewing films of energy futures and the everyday
  16. 16. EB’s design and methodology … • Shirani, F., Parkhill, K., Butler, C., Groves, C., Pidgeon, N. and Henwood, K. (2016) Asking about the future: Methodological insights from energy biographies, International Journal of Social Research Methodologies, .19 (4) 429-444 DOI: 10.1080/13645579.2015.1029208 • Henwood, K., Shirani, F. and Groves, C.(in press). Using photographs in interviews: When we lack the words to say what practice means. To appear in U. Flick (ed) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection London: Sage
  17. 17. Activity 1 – participant-generated photos 1. Activity 1 – participant-generated photos • Participants were asked to take photographs of things they felt were related to energy use around four themes • Two week period for each theme. Participants were sent texts to remind them of the theme • Pictures then formed the basis for discussion in interview 2 Jack: That’s a tumble dryer timer so you can control the heat and the time, I’m very aware of using the tumble dryer, I don’t use it very often, in fact just lately I’ve hardly used it at all … I just put the stuff over the clothes horse and then the ambient temperature of the house dries the clothes or I put them outside on the line and I love pegging washing out, it’s one of my favourite things … Int: And what is it about pegging washing out? Jack: I don’t know but my mum has it so maybe it’s something I’ve picked up off her … just the ease, the ease and the ability to just have such an easy, to create clean washing is such a hard task and it’s just fantastic to do it, maybe, maybe in the distant past my relatives were in domestic service and had to struggle, washing is a real struggle if you don’t have modern gadgets so every time I do it I really appreciate it.
  18. 18. Activity 2 – text-prompted photos 15 years, I think that I would really like to get more solar heating or more electricity from PV panels and things like that. Or I’m very keen to get an electric car and maybe in five years time that might already be a possibility but I would sort of say maybe in ten to fifteen years time that it’s a lot more a possibility than now. Maybe my needs would have changed a little but by then, my son would probably be driving so maybe we only need it as a family maybe only have you know a petrol car and maybe then a little electric car for me and my wife to sort of go around for local trips or something like that … Maybe by then the kind of car hire you can sort of do by you know Sit Car or Street Car or something where you hire them by the hour if and when you need them so you have Car Club membership maybe that is more widespread in ten, 15 years time so there may be some changes the way we sort of think. So I’m hoping to have our house the energy consumption of the house reduced by a lot. (Dennis)
  19. 19. • “they were coming from a time of war and deprivation and they had in the beginning of the 20th century there was a lot of economic problems so all this is a part of the past and we’re looking into the future which is the opposite. So it’s abundance, it’s an easy life, not easy life in bad way but in a good way that you don’t have to do a lot of chores and you can enjoy your life more” Suzanna “ if our population grows so much that the land shrinks that much that we really can’t produce enough food maybe we’ll have to look at something on the sea you know islands of growth or something like this without any soil or anything like that so could be a bit like out of the box that we might need in 50 years time to go back to” Dennis Activity 3 - videos Activity 3 – video clips • During interview 3 participants are shown clips from a 1950s and 2010s version of what a home of the future might look like • The clips facilitate talk about the future, which can otherwise be difficult to discuss
  20. 20. Images • What are the first words that come to mind in looking at these images? • Where would you locate the images temporally? (i.e. are they about the past, present or future?) • What issues relating to sustainability emerge for you from these images? • Does having the accompanying text change the way you think about the image?
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  22. 22. A Sense of Energy (Hackney Wick/The Senedd, Cardiff Bay, June & October 2014)
  23. 23. Re-using the exhibits • ‘Monster Confidence’ event aimed at encouraging young women into STEM organised by Stemettes Photos courtesy of Stemettes
  24. 24. Flexis (Flexible, Integrated Energy Systems) • Engineering-social science research consortium in Wales • Demonstrator sites in Port Talbot, centring on Tata Steel, and surrounding region • Revisiting “stories of change” to understand potential social impacts of energy system transitions • Socio-technical focus – expert imaginaries and effects of interventions in everyday homes, plus siting/risk controversies
  25. 25. Flexis & obliquity • Planning range of multimodal storymaking research strategies • First example: expert interviews • Eliciting personal as well as professional perspectives on the future
  26. 26. Final remarks: storymaking & questions for social science & the arts 1. How to bring together social science & arts to stage ‘convivial’ research encounters to create knowledge? 2. Can their collaborative work be developed to enliven engagement with research? 3. What role does obliquity play in making it possible to tell ‘difficult’ stories? 4. How can the arts bring materiality into social science, making tangible the intangible (e.g. everyday life and its dependencies, assumptions about the future?)
  27. 27. To read end of award report: • biographies-final-report-available/