Remembering My Hat

30th September 2010

Crunching, playing, digging and swimming.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:52
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I’ve been thinking about the words academics use to describe what they’re doing when they’re working with research data. (this is so not the sort of data I’m talking about!)

I guess the commonest over-arching term is ‘analysing’. I quite like ‘analysing’ because it makes it clear that my job (as I conceive it) is not just to re-present the data but to do something with it. To pull it to pieces and put it back together again (what’s that analogy? A jigsaw? I loathe jigsaws. And also the whole point of a jigsaw is that you put it back into the one true, correct, same shape, whereas the whole point of analysing data is that you don’t and, within my paradigms, you couldn’t).

Discursive psychology has a very clear conception of what it means to analyse data, rather that simply to explain or summarise it, e.g.  I still find those useful ideas, even though I’m no longer doing discursive psychology.

Analysing data is probably my default term, although it does always conjour up an image of my data lying on a couch while I ask it about its mother.

I also use ‘crunching’ for the stage when you’re not really thinking about it yet, you’re just organising it and getting it into a shape where you can start thinking about it. So I’ve spent the last 2 days crunching the data from my Imagining Bi Futures research. That was fun – it re-enthuses me about the richness and interest of the data, and it’s satisfying to feel I’m getting a sense of what the data’s like. It’s as if the data is a lot of laundry strewn all over the house which I have collected together into a large bundle. It’s not yet folded and sorted, but the folding and sorting is now possible.

Actually, of course, data crunching is not really separable from the analytic process because the way you organise the data affects the way you analyse it. For the Imagining Bi Futures data I’ve ended up organising it by research participant, so for each person I have stapled together a scan of their drawing, their written description of what their drawing shows and then anything they said during the workshop. This would be pretty inimical to many discursive approaches because ‘the unit of analysis is the discursive feature, not the person’. The argument is that if you organise your data by participants, you tend to think about it in terms of people. Hardliners would extend this to not giving participants person-like pseudonyms but codes like ‘FG1:3’ (Focus Group 1: participant no. 3)

In this case, I think my unit of analysis is the narrative feature. I’m not interested in the people (analytically speaking. Some of them are good friends so I’m very interested in them and I’m generally interested in people), I’m interested in the future autobiographies they happened to produce in my workshop. But organising the data by participants has made what was previously an amorphous mass of different kinds of data feel manageable and grokable.  I’m human, I think about humans, so sue me. And the names they chose for themselves as their pseudonyms are another part of the data.

Another term I use is ‘playing’ as in ‘I’m just playing with the data, to see what comes up’. I use this partly without thinking because I do enjoy it and it does feel a bit like play (I get paid to do something that feels like play! How lucky am I?). And also because I get most of my best ideas when I feel as if I’m just playing or when I’m having a conversation with someone else that is fun. But I also use it in more of a self-management way to get me over the fear of starting – I’m not really analysing at the moment, I’m just playing with it.

A colleague who just gave me a cup of tea (thanks, Sam Murphy!) suggested ‘excavating’ or ‘digging down’ for the later stage when you are really properly analysing. I’m surprised I don’t use this one, as it’s quite common and I can see how it would work. I think perhaps ‘excavating’ sounds too much to me as if there is something there waiting to be found, which, as a social constructionist, isn’t how I conceive of what I’m doing. But that doesn’t apply to simply ‘digging down’. Maybe it sounds a bit too much like hard work? Mostly, I think I don’t experience working with data as hard work. Writing up is hard work, for sure, but thinking about data mostly isn’t, for me.

I do occasionally use ‘immersed’ as in ‘that great feeling when you’re really immersed in your data’. Being immersed isn’t so much something you are doing with your data, it’s more something that happens to you. I suppose I could say I was swimming in my data, but I don’t think I ever have.

This was meant to be a brief introductory paragraph to presenting some old data that I’ve been playing with as diagrams, but I seem to have got carried away. Will stop now and post the other stuff another day.


28th September 2010

Event announcements x3

I try to make posts to this blog substantive, rather than just announcing things, because that’s my main rationale for keeping this blog at all. But three events have come along at once that I’m really interested in. The first two I’m involved in, and the third I’d love to go but am feeling I haven’t much to contribute. So  I can’t resist the temptation to use my blog as a pimp for once. (Sorry, blog, will pay you proper attention soon. Perhaps once the first of these events is out of the way).

You are cordially invited to the next talk in the series run by the Biographical Methods Group.

This session will be on Thursday 30th September, 12.30 – 1.30 in Library Seminar Room 1 at The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes. Bring along your lunch if you want to – it’s very informal.

Dr Rebecca Jones

‘When I get older’: Imagining bi futures

Gerontologists have noted for many years that people find it hard to imagine themselves growing old, characterising this failure of imagination as both arising from and contributing toward ageism and the ill-treatment of older people. To the extent that people are able to imagine their own ageing, they often draw on older people they know, especially family members, as role models. They also draw on cultural resources around them, such as films, books and other media. Previous research has shown that, despite the increased variability and diversity of (post)modern lifecourses, people still tend to project normative lifecourses, often centring around marriage, childbearing and grandchildren. Previous work has also demonstrated that the scarcity of representations of older LGBT people, combined with the enduring power of normative lifecourses, creates particular issues for young lesbian and gay people. Research so far has not focused on the experiences of bisexual people.

This paper presents initial findings from an ongoing study of young and middle-aged bi-identified people about how they imagine their own ageing and old age. The data comes from workshops using creative methods where participants were invited to create scenarios for their own old age.

If you know you are coming, please let ( or Donna Loftus ( know – otherwise just come on the day.

The Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies (CABS) at the Open University is 15 years old this year. Since 1995 members of the research group have used biographical methods to investigate issues relating to ageing and later life including; new family forms, housing and care homes, sexuality, end-of-life issues, age discrimination, and medication in everyday life.

You are warmly invited to our anniversary event ‘Are biographical methods still relevant?’. It will be held on Tuesday 2nd November, from 2-6pm in the Berril Lecture Theatre at The Open University campus in Milton Keynes.

Speakers will include Professor Mim Bernard, the President of the British Society of Gerontology, and founder members of CABS, Professor Malcolm Johnson, Professor Joanna Bornat and Dr Bill Bytheway. There will be an opportunity to view posters about the current research projects of CABS members, as well as to think about the challenges and opportunities of using biographical methods in research.

There will be drinks and nibbles from 5pm onwards. There is no charge for this event. If you would like to attend, please reply to Katherine Perry

Feminism and Teaching Symposium

8th — 9th April 2011,  University of Nottingham

This is a two-day interdisciplinary postgraduate symposium that will explore the relationships between feminism and teaching.

Keynote workshops/sessions by: Professor Gina Wisker (Brighton), Professor Sara Mills (Sheffield Hallam) and Dr. Louise Mullany(Nottingham), Professor Ruth Holliday (Leeds), Dr. Ben Brabon (Edge Hill), Annette Foster (Performance Artist).

Postgraduates, early career researchers, teachers, artists and activists of all genders are invited to propose sessions engaging with issues relating to feminism and teaching.

This symposium aims to bring together people from a wide variety of disciplines and contexts to explore the ways in which these two fields relate to each other and the ways in which each term strengthens and/or troubles the other.

Proposed topics could include:

* Teaching feminist theory and practice

* Introducing feminism into the school, F.E. and undergraduate classroom

* Overcoming ‘gender-blind’ syllabuses

* Consciousness raising activities outside the classroom

* Ways in which gender intersects with other discourses, like race, age and class in teaching activities

* The impact of context on teaching activities and materials

* Feminist pedagogy and modes of teaching

* Ways in which feminism can inform research and teaching across the disciplines

 * Feminisms plural

* Ways in which feminism changes, alters/is altered, and is deployed in the classroom setting

 * Gender-Biases in perceptions of feminism

 * Men and feminist teaching practices

 * Reclamation of women’s language and experiences

 * Reclaiming the feminist agenda

* Ways of teaching gender sensitive matierials and associated difficulties e.g.: women’s writing, sociological data, everyday life, media, popular culture, legal and political theory and practice

* Any other issue related to feminism and teaching

Presenters are encouraged to engage with these issues in a way that reflects the material being discussed. We would like to include a diversity of presentation styles, but we are particularly keen to encourage interactive sessions, including short film screenings, musical and dramatic performances, workshops, presentations about ongoing projects or works in progress, demonstrations, discussion sessions, or any other format conducive to exploring the relationships between feminism and teaching.

For more information please visit our website:

23rd September 2010

Bi visibility day

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:29
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It’s Bi visibility day today.

Because I am a Bad and Busy bisexual activist, I’m just going to post some links to other people posting about the day:

Bisexual index about the day in general

Bi bloggers a blog aggregator which, at the moment, has some posts about bi visibility day at the top of the page. If you’re looking later, try looking by the date of 23rd Sept.

And I’m going to nick Bisexual Index’s pretty picture:

Possibly the most minimalist piece of activism I have ever dared to claim as such.

7th September 2010

LGBT Health Summit

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 22:50
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I’ve just got back from the annual LGBT Health Summit which, handily for me, this year was at the University of Hertfordshire.

I was invited to run a workshop on ‘something to do with bisexuality’, so did one partly about how bisexual identities play out in health care, and partly trying to problematise the idea of ‘outness’ for LGBT people generally in health care settings.

I did a bit of teaching about bisexuality and life course perspectives, reusing the case studies from my chapter in my book and creating some new diagrams (which I might post later, as they’re pretty and might be something I reuse as an analytic tool). And I did a lot of getting them to discuss things in small groups and generate their own diagrams and accounts of their own experiences of outness in health settings. I was hoping to get enough/rich enough data from that to form the basis of a paper about outness in health and social care settings, but a quick skim of what I’ve got doesn’t look as if that one’s a go-er.

There was a startlingly biphobic person in my workshop (bisexual people break up relationships and are incapable of fidelity) but they weren’t too disruptive, not least because I spotted that one of the other participants wanted to respond so let her speak first. She made different, probably more effective, points from the ones I was going to (because she spoke without academic hedging and using a voice of personal experience) and that made me think about the general point about how you handle participants’ and students’ existing expertise in both workshops and teaching.

When I’m writing course material I sometimes feel as if I’m perpetuating a terrible OU cliché by constantly asking students to reflect on their experience and draw on their existing expertise. But this experience, and things witnessed in other workshops, have reminded me that actually, it’s a really good way of teaching, especially with mature students. In terms of ‘class’ management, it can stop people being disruptive because they don’t feel the need to assert their expertise if you’re already treating them as expert. And it provides the group with resources beyond those of the ‘teacher’ who [gasp] may not know it all, or be best placed to explain it. We’re writing quite a lot of online collaborative work into K319 and I’m going to be very interested to see how that works out in practice. I have high hopes (but also anxieties).

The other thing it confirmed in me was my love of case studies as a teaching tool. I stupidly hadn’t anticipated that there might be people with learning disabilities in my workshop, despite the fact that I had spotted that at another point in the conference there was a workshop run by a person with learning difficulties and his support worker. Some of the activities I had designed were not accessible to the PWLD who attended my workshop but the case studies, apparently, worked really well for them. Case studies, they’re great.

It was one of the most trans inclusive generic LGBT conference I have ever been to. There were trans plenary speakers, several trans workshops, a high number of delegates who appeared to be trans, and plenary speakers never forgot to include the ‘T’ in their general remarks e.g. they said ‘gay men, lesbians and transpeople [blah blah blah]’ Oops, notice anything missing? Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted that trans issues were so foregrounded.  But, oh my, it did throw into contrast the invisible bisexuals.

What came home to me most strongly around trans issues (something I did already know but felt more powerfully today) was how strongly invested some trans people are in the discourse of the authentic self. The idea that a transwoman’s essential, true self is female and a transman’s male. In a context of awful transphobia, and as a cis-gendered person myself, I don’t want to do anything that undermine’s people’s sense of self and the narratives they find necessary for self preservation.

But as a social constructionist I just don’t belive it. I don’t think gender works like that. I don’t think selves work like that. And I really don’t like the ways those narratives disallow other forms of gender variance, such as androgyny, genderqueerness and two-gender people.

I’ve got a new PhD student starting in October who’s planning to look at some aspects of transwomen’s experiences of the NHS. I’m really looking forward to exploring these issues with him.

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