B.I.S.S Research White Papers

after the field work – what next?

It’s December and we will soon be on leave.

Well, only sort of. Most academics manage to squeeze in a bit of time off, but I had my week in France a few weeks ago because I knew I had a busy summer. Five of the doctoral researchers I work with are trying to finish their Big Books, so there’s a lot of reading and responding to do. There are also conferences coming up, and four papers to get sorted out. These are not utterly new work, but are based on things that were already written this last academic year, or are papers nearly done. So not too much stress there, more a matter of sorting out and getting to the powerpoints. And there’s a chapter to be written in the next week or so, a book to be finalized and sent off, and ongoing work on a couple of websites.

As well, I’ve been doing a bit of actual field-work – a real luxury. I blogged summer school @ tate last week and my intention this week in the blog is to show and tell what I do after I’ve just finished being ‘out’. I’m not sure who will find this interesting but I do know there’s not much around which reveals the mess of the analytic process. It’s just another bit of secret research business that somehow everyone is just supposed to know.

So after the field work, what now?

After the fun of the field comes the inside thinking work. One of everyone’s first post field work tasks is to organise the data. The data that I currently have on hand are:
(1) field notes in a notebook, messy handwriting
(2) five blog posts which summarise each day’s activities and the major questions that came up. I used my field notes to construct these posts.
(3) A set of quick participant responses to some questions – these are currently just post-its sorted into three ‘question’ bags
(4) photos of some of the week’s events and of some of the chart paper brainstorm work – I downloaded these yesterday but they are not yet filed.

I am expecting more data from the Tate team: audio recordings made of all discussions, more photographs and diary room footage. There is also a little material on our Learning with Tate blog. (We are hoping to construct a photo diary of the week as part of our research, and possibly involve participants in constructing this if they are interested. The result is many more photos than last year. I do seem to have this habit of doing projects which generate huge amounts of visual material which is pretty time consuming to deal with.)

I haven’t yet decided the best way to sort all this data out and I’m looking at some new software.I need to make a decision this week about how to sort and track all that there is from this quite time-limited activity. If I don’t I’ll just end up wasting huge amounts of time looking for things.

The next step for me is to consolidate random thoughts. I always suggest to the doctoral researchers that I work with that they write a few reflections immediately after their ‘outside’ research. I say that they should write about what they think they knew when they started the field work, and where they think that they are now. This writing is simply a means of taking those wild thoughts that keep you awake at night (well it does me straight after unless I do this) and get them into some kind of order – this reflection does form part of the data archive that is available for later analysis.

I wrote four pages of reflections yesterday while things were still churning around in my head. Here’s an extract.

Both 2012 and 2013 Summer Schools have worked as an interruption to everyday working life, and for some teachers a disruption. A new line of learning has begun, or is perhaps taken up again for repeat attenders. Participants consider the connections between the school ways of being/doing/learning and that which occurs during Summer School.

The ‘evidence’ that attests to this:
• many participants talk of experiencing what their students experience when asked to do a piece of work. They feel they have moved ‘subject positions’ from teacher to learner
• they talk about multiple identities – either me and the teacher, or the artist and the teacher – and how to reconcile these. In particular, in 2013 several people talked about having to make time for me or my arts practice
• many participants started the 2013 week thinking of it as being something for work (stated in their pre course list of expectations) and ended up thinking that it was for ‘me’
• participants refer to the contrast between the open-ended tasks they do at Summer School and the fixed outcomes that they are required to work with at school
• one person talked of 2013 SS as returning him to the ideals he had when he left Art School and went into teaching
• one person from 2012 SS talked of stopping teaching in order to do art. I often find that the ‘big ideas’ I note immediately after being out in the field turn out to be important – but they might not be. They aren’t the result of systematic analysis (note the ‘some’ and ‘many’ in my notes, these are impressions yet to be tested in the actual data) and so they do need to be regarded with some suspicion. However, these reflections often, as is the case now, send me off re-reading particular texts that I think might eventually be helpful. This reading works in parallel with analysis – as independent of the actual data processing as I can make it.

So here is another extract which shows how this looks for me.

One way to think about Summer School as interruption/disruption is to use Deleuze and Guattari’s notions of lines of desire:
• Lines of force that colonise the consciousness (molar) – teachers do talk about their immersion in the required school pedagogies as a kind of colonization by ‘the system’
• There are lines that open up cracks in consciousness (molecular). For some people SS could open up a crack or two…
• And there are lines of flight that open up the new – these lines can be creative, but also potentially self-destructive. Lines of flight escape the colonized – they deterritorialise. In the SS case, SS as interruption/disruption via a new line of flight, I would be thinking at most of a relative de-territorialisation, not absolute, and maybe a re-territorialisation given that SS is held at Tate (big high status gallery). Mostly learning as line of flight is about liminality, a becoming state rather than an end point, SS as a kind of limbo, inhabiting another space, another way of being. This feels useful, and is connected to my 2012 analysis of SS as trying things out and trying things on. Ingold uses notions of lines too and talks about ways to build connections between lines – toggles – rather than have them co-exist as parallel, or one go on and the other peter out. This might be a helpful notion at some point.

So I’m reading bits of Deleuze and Guattari and Ingold again just in case ‘lines’ turns out to be a useful explanatory resource when the systematic analysis is actually done. I’m also thinking about space/time/place and I haven’t forgotten Derrida and hospitality! So lots of potential theoretical resources to play with, if they will help make meaning later.

I’m back to Tate later this week for a debrief. This will include discussion of my and other people’s preliminary thinking. More notes, more data!!