Start again, from the top

Perhaps if I keep going around in circles enough I will be able to find out what I really mean by all this?

What am I trying to do?

The plan is to

  • Look at a suburb which has concrete (i.e. bricks and mortar) differences in the types of housing along with a significant amount of public housing in a gentrified area.
  • Work out whether these differences, or any other differences, are apparent in social interaction and whether or not (or, most significantly, which) people see there as being social stratification
  • Map what sort of social interaction takes place between people who are different to each other
  • Work out what (if any) social interaction people actually want in that suburb

I hope to be able to use the data to explore

  • if this particular case study provides any empirical basis for or against the almost universal promotion of ‘mixed communities’ (generally referring to dispersing public housing though less disadvantaged areas)
  • if the outcomes that the Australian and Victorian governments are trying to bring about in ‘disadvantaged’ areas are properties of more prosperous suburbs
  • whether theses that claim to describe disadvantage in the social sciences and to shape policy responses to poverty (i.e. the culture of poverty, social capital, social exclusion) have any empirical validity in this context and whether they are used by people in, or to understand, their social interactions
  • if ‘encounters’ (in the sense it is used in the human geography literature) matter when it comes to how people talk about other people and their likelihood of seeking out contact with people who are different to them
  • Do people living in the same suburb have the same place based social experiences and expectations?

The way I hope to collect such data is through

  • door knocking a few streets of different housing types with a short survey about whether or not people know their neighbours/ other people in the suburb and how they compare their street to the rest of the suburb (survey is partly an excuse to compare my reception at different doors)
  • spending time in a few local organisations
    • resident associations (protecting private realm interests- property values etc)
    • community garden (people have private plots but in a shared space)
    • ‘friends of…’ a local native plant reserve- which is undergoing some significant work over the next few years and has been a well known gay beat (residents mobilised to support a public space, but also to prevent its use by certain groups)
  • observation in some public spaces (this really has not been well thought out yet)
  • extended interviews with some people who live in the area
  • interviews with people who work in ‘relevant’ fields in the area

My concerns include

  • having information on the differences in wealth and income will be quite important for my data analysis but how do I get anywhere near this information for individuals? (should I be happy with just a scale of occupations and housing types?)
  • getting at what people think about each other when they know that I am also spending time with other people
  • there are LOTS of types of difference, but my project is rather limited to loosely socio-economic differences
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