How I came to the Imagine Project
This PhD is part of the Imagine Programme, which is a five-year project running from 2013 to 2017, funded through the ESRC, and which brings together a range of different research projects working together across universities and their, mostly local, communities.
Imagine work package 4: The Democratic Context
"The democratic context of civic engagement, explores what the democratisation of knowledge about communities means in practice. New forms of knowledge are emerging about communities and how they change, with opportunities opening up for voices to be heard that have previously been marginalised. We are particularly interested in what community members think about how the future of their communities has been imagined, and how new technologies are making it possible for these views to be expressed.” http://www.imaginecommunity.org.uk/projects/the-democratic-context/
There is a growing interest in the use of creative, or arts-based methods within social research that is opening a space outside of the boundaries of traditional methods of data gathering; a space that improves the ‘critical attentiveness, collaboration and experimentation’ (Back & Puwar, 2012 p.18) of both data gathering and dissemination of analysis. Outlining the possibilities for imagining research differently, Les back (2012 p.26) calls for a rethinking of sociology that pays attention to the ‘fleeting, distributed, multiple and sensory aspects of sociality.
I came to the Imagine Programme (work package 4; the democratic context), and to the field of sociology in May 2014, having previously studied contemporary art for many years. During my Master of Research Degree at the Glasgow School of Art I developed an interest in combining creative practice with the rigours of academic/social research. The modes and methods of representation learned over many years of studying art hopefully provide me with the attentiveness to critical investigation that is required for the creation of what Les Back calls 'Live Sociology' (Live Methods, 2012. Back & Puwar)
My experience within arts based community engagement and the use of poetry as a research method, allows me to bring a diverse range of skills to the Imagine programme and to my PhD project. Engaging with communities and working with individuals, allows participants to be part of the emerging data. While providing a solid foundation from which to build, traditional research methods such as questionnaires and interviews can also constrict the data by offering a limited, and limiting position from which participants are often being asked to speak. Creative, live methods are an innovative approach to the inquiry of understandings of personal experience, and the dissemination of subsequent findings.