This SRA conference, where my latest book was formally launched, was a wonderful gathering of diverse researchers. We had academic researchers, government researchers, researchers working in research companies and charities and other organisations, and independent researchers. There were researchers from North and South America, Canada, and other European countries as well as the UK. And we had researchers from across the arts, humanities, and social sciences: from media, design, law, sociology, psychology, and geography, among others. This diversity made for an incredibly stimulating environment. A delegate commented to me that the conference could easily have run over three days, not one, and I think they were right.
The keynote speaker was Professor David Gauntlett. He spoke about the ethical imperative of reciprocity and dialogue in research, and how making and discussing metaphorical artefacts could provide a positive experience for participants. David often uses Lego, but on this occasion he used the pipe cleaners in delegates’ packs to involve us in a participatory demonstration, asking us to build a metaphor of our feelings on our journey that morning to the British Library conference centre. This short exercise was entertaining and instructive, and David built on that to show how making things and talking about them could yield richer data for researchers than simply asking questions. His presentation was dynamic and set the tone for the day.
The morning and afternoon workshop presentations made up a wonderful patchwork with 24 vibrant blocks of colour. They were in four concurrent streams, which regular readers of this blog will recognise: arts-based research, research using technology, mixed methods research, and transformative research frameworks. Presentations included:
- Sarah Armstrong from the Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research talking about using collage to elicit narratives from offenders with multiple and complex needs;
- Barbara Schneider from the University of Calgary in Canada talking about her ten-year participatory research with people who have schizophrenia, and in particular the creative ways they disseminated their research including theatrical performances, photovoice, a graphic novel, a travelling exhibit, a documentary film, a book, journal articles, and a website;
- Janice McLaughlin from Newcastle University using mixed methods with young people with disabilities, such as making jewellery to explore identity and represent embodiment;
- Maggie O’Neill from Durham University used walking as a mobile method with asylum-seeking and undocumented women in the north-east of England, and storytelling, drawing, photography, film, poetry, and exhibition in communicating their participatory research;
- Iokine Rodriguez from the University of East Anglia and Mirna Lis Inturias from Universidad NUR, Bolivia talked about using video within a decolonising and participatory framework, with indigenous tribal communities from the Chiquitano peoples of Bolivia, to enable them to give their opinion of forest management.
This is only a small selection, chosen because they had further information online that I could link to for anyone who wanted more than just a headline. Details of all the workshop presentations can be found in the conference storify which was ably created by our official live-tweeter, Annika Coughlin. The presentations I went to (in the transformative research frameworks stream) were excellent, and I gather from those in other workshop streams that the quality was consistent throughout.
One of the most exciting moments for me came just before lunch, when I discovered the conference hashtag #CRM15 was trending on Twitter! After lunch Jude England, Head of Research Engagement at the British Library, gave a talk on ‘The Pleasures and Perils of Digital’. She encouraged researchers to find, use, and reference secondary data, and gave some good tips on how to do this, as well as explaining how the Library works and how it can help researchers.
At the end of the conference, I gave a short speech to launch my book, Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. This was immediately followed by a celebratory wine reception, kindly sponsored by my publisher Policy Press. Overall it was a wonderful and inspiring day. I can hardly imagine a better conference, or a more enjoyable book launch.