Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Engaging audiences for my research

There's nothing like settling down to write your thesis 'proper' for distracting yourself. Suddenly, all sorts of projects come to mind. This week, whilst not (yet) getting distracted from putting one of my thesis chapters together, I had some sort of mad dream about dissemination and wider popular and professional sharing of my PhD insights.

I just can't help myself - my career has always involved making things accessible to people, and I believe passionately that academics can do so much more to make their research accessible, relevant and (gasp!) interesting. That's what comes of working with children and young people for years. Combine that with an obsession with visual methods (and methodologies) and art direction, graphic design and events and you have a dangerous combination.

The daydream went something like this: I realised I had dozens and dozens of drawings produced as part of my visual methodology. If you have read previous posts, you might remember that I've used images in my work with PhD participants as they we have talked about narrative identity and its' relation to their 'social  worlds'.

These images are NOT simply illustration, they supported very real 'co-configuration' of narratives; but what I have found is that they are a way into talking about both the process and the insights around my research. Combine that with all that wonderful narrative data and some blather from me, I have the raw ingredients of an installation or event.

So; permit me to continue my fantasy if you will. I am imagining a room full of these images, along with actors' voicing sound clips of narrative from the study. Throw in a few explanatory panels and even some interactive activities...oh, and some guest speakers, good lighting and a well designed brochure and something interesting could happen. In this (wonderful) fantasy, I'm imagining inviting general, academic and professional audiences to an event/reception at which they might be intrigued to explore some ideas and insights into professional narratives of leaders within Early Childhood services.

I shared my ideas with my principal supervisor and they were well received. As it happens, my ambitions for disseminating my 'results' (that term isn't suited) fits the priorities for my University. We even have a creative partnership with the BALTIC centre for contemporary art in Newcastle, so you never know what creative collaborations I could manage?

Ultimately, it's not an event, or an installation, or even self promotion that's the point: for me, the focus is generating meaningful insight into practice and leadership development using visual and narrative methodologies. It's about showing that hermeneutics and philosophy can be practical, and it's about helping people ask new questions. I have a responsibility to engage them in that conversation, and I think I have a pretty good way in.