Favours: Re-framing my project

While I started ‘working’ around 7am today I did not even look at those tasks with any sort of deadline until some time after 3pm. I could feel my entire body shrug with defeat when I looked at the annotations I had made to my survey schedule in the meeting with my supervisor 25 hours before. The door-knock survey came about as an idea because I thought it would be great to have a concrete task to start with and that it would provide me with a method for meeting some people from what appear to be interesting streets. The amount of questions and possible responses has since grown and so today, in an attempt to contain its size, I was about to chop out altogether the questions about favours between neighbours when I realised I was not at all excited about doing the door-knock survey any more.

While I am sure that the experience of data collection will be characterised much more by feelings of stress, mental exhaustion, sleep deprivation and loss of my sense of self than excitement and joy, I do not think it is going to be easy to convince people to answer questions if those questions do not lead to me having any enthusiasm for finding the answers. So, just as I tackle sentences or paragraphs that are not quite doing it for me, I thought what would happen if I turned it back to front. In this instance that means what if instead of deleting my questions about favours I turned that into an anchor point for my project?

I do not think I would go out there just to collect information about favours, but I think that it could be an every day concept that means a lot and is a lot more likely to start conversations than ‘do people get together’ (which always puts the falsetto strains of the Bigger Than Tina soundtrack cover of ‘We can get together’ in my head). It is a starting point that will allow me to delve into why it is that people who write about ‘incivilities’ and the connection between incivilities and disadvantage feel that an etic account of what counts as civil is appropriate. Face-to-face qualitative research will also allow me to follow individuals rather than looking at group level data that makes social capital literature so frustrating. Finally, it allows space for me to consider culture-in-the-cultural-sociologists’ sense while keeping my data collection rational based solidly in social interaction. (Yes, yesterday afternoon I dug out some Radcliffe-Brown to read.)

Okay, now the challenge is not to spend the evening writing blog posts and to instead do some ‘real work’.

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