I was able to do this thanks to some funds from my research council (the ESRC) back in the UK, and an official report on some of the cool things we do at Edgeryders will soon be on their website, so watch this space
First of all, I want to just say how incredible Blivande is as a space. It’s huge – the downstairs is open plan, with lots of exciting and strange events going on in the evenings. Studio Beta, the co-working space upstairs, is equal parts cozy and quirky. And there are no shoes allowed in the entire building, which added to the creative and comfortable vibe of the place. I got a lot of work done! During my stay, I got to go to a Lego-themed book launch (we had a great time building all kinds of structures), see a village of shipping containers constructed in front of me, and meet people working on interesting projects. On day 1 we connected with an artist who had created an artwork set in the Mittag-Leffler Mathematics Institute where my partner was working – Stockholm is small enough that such coincidences and overlaps seem to happen frequently. I brought my visual anthropologist friend to Blivande and she was also enamoured with the space.
The most fun I had was definitely talking to Hugi about things we could do in the future. We are getting Babel Between Us, the project Hugi and Jakob dreamed up and secured funding for, up and running. The project makes me excited because we are applying ethnographic methods towards a more open-ended, artistic endeavour than we ever have before, engaging with how people collaboratively and improvisationally tell stories (and interpret them). Community members work together to engage in a collective writing process, while a second group acts collaboratively in the role of ethnographer, continuously analysing the produced content to distinguish emerging patterns as codes (my role). SSNA has so far not been made on an autotelic or non-instrumental social network, and the goal is to see what concepts and conceptual maps emerge from a non-instrumental process. I’m excited to apply ethnographic methods to a less conventional subject method, but one closely tied to my own research interests in social/collective imaginaries. The project is ongoing, and I’m excited to help to imagine new modes of dissemination of our research outputs that reach wider, non-academic audiences as well as academic ones. The imagination is a hard thing to study, but crucial to our understandings of how social worlds come into being and how meaning is made and shared. I think using SSNA to study more creative collaborative world-building projects could shed light on a lot of concepts that are generally hard to get at using more conventional social science methods.
Part of the constructive potential of my PhD research involves understanding how people imagine their future communities through interaction with objects like the built environment and technology (specifically, the combination of both, as cities become saturated with technology). In many ways, this question is deeply humanistic and subjective, often difficult to approach as people rarely articulate these sentiments readily and clearly. The storytelling project, I think, helps us develop methods to understand such social imaginaries, maintaining the qualitative richness of human stories while also systematically studying and mapping them.
Hugi and I also talked about ways to secure funding to expand Sense Stack, developing SSNA further. We started to map out the existing terrain of QDA analysis tools (spoiler alert: it’s bad out there, as any qualitative social science researcher will tell you). Both of us are dying for the chance to devote lots of time and resources to expanding our awesome SSNA methodology and getting it out there in the world for other people to use. After every presentation I give, I have lots of researchers coming up to me asking how they can use our software for their own work. We’d love to be able to give them an answer in the strong affirmative in the near future!
We also constructed a proposal (in part with @alberto) to analyse emergent ways of arranging support, care, and affective networks across the life course (beyond the traditional nuclear family). We speculate that a lot of people are undertaking new and changing domestic arrangements and romantic relations, which are likely not being taken into account in the structure of government service provision, and contextualise these changes in historical shifts in care provision (from community, family, and state). We see an opening up of relationship configurations that we want to query and understand further. We will write this proposal up on the platform imminently (our resident ethnographer has been slow on this one, and she apologises )
Based on ideas from a contact of Hugi’s, we also discussed the possibility of conference SSNA— a SSNA that analyses the interests of conference attendees before they arrive, and shows them a map of their interests and connections with each other once they get there. This means that people arrive and kick off the conference with a richer agenda, leading to richer conversations and letting them know who they might want to connect with while there. You see not only who else is in the room, but who else in the room cares about what you care about. You can also see what the community as a whole is thinking about. Conferences are often physical manifestations of particular scientific or knowledge communities, and our method may be well-suited to mapping them. This is also monetisable in easily imagined ways.
In short, I loved my time at Blivande and hope to be back there soon! Thanks @hugi for being a fabulous host (though too well-travelled for my liking )