Kip Jones

KIP JONES, an American by birth, has been studying and working in the UK for more than 19 years.
Under the umbrella term of 'arts-based research', his main efforts have involved developing tools
from the arts and humanities for use by social scientists in research and its impact on a wider
public or a Perfomative Social Science.

Jones is Reader in Performative Social Science and Director of the Centre for Qualitative Research
at Bournemouth University. Kip has produced films and written many articles for academic
journals and authored chapters for books on topics such as masculinity, ageing and rurality,
and older LGBT citizens. His ground-breaking use of qualitative methods, including
biography and auto-ethnography, and the use of tools from the arts in social science research and
dissemination are well-known.

Jones acted as Author and Executive Producer of
the award-winning short film,
RUFUS STONE, funded by Research Councils UK.
The film is now available for
free viewing on the Internet and has been
viewed by more than 13,000 people in 150
countries.

Areas of expertise
• Close relationships, culture and ethnicity
• Social psychology, sociology
• Ageing, self and identity
• Interpersonal processes, personality,
individual differences,
social networks, prejudice and stereotyping
• Sexuality and sexual orientation
• Creativity and the use of the
arts in Social Science

Media experience
His work has been reported widely
in the media, including:
BBC Radio 4,BBC TV news,Times
Higher Education, Sunday New
York Times, International
Herald-Tribune
and The Independent.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Tickled pink: the year behind, the year ahead.

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"How breakthroughs come, and the price people pay for them". 

It certainly has been a productive and eventful year for me.  After more than five years of scheming, planning, cajoling, compromising and plain hard work, our efforts to produce Rufus Stone the movie culminated with the premiere of the film at Bournemouth University in November.

Bringing this concept of a ‘performative social science’ to fruition in such a major way (£226K of funding by Research Councils UK and three years of research by a dedicated but small team supported by citizen advisors) certainly was a milestone personally.  Working on the film production with director, Josh Appignanesi and Parkville Pictures, along with what to me seemed a huge cast and crew of more than 45 talented individuals for a 30-minute film, was the icing on the cake.  The week of location shoots in rural Dorset and surrounding counties (thank you, SATNAV) in July was truly a personal learning experience I will never forget.  The response that the film received at the premiere was reassuring and heart-warming. 


I can only look to the year ahead with many more screenings of Rufus Stone, both for citizens in rural communities as well as in film festivals and at a few conferences.  It should prove reassuring to all of us for our faith in the project and all of the hard work that went into making it happen.


Something else happened late this year, however, that tickled me pink.


More than ten years ago now, when I was living in a bedsit in Leicester and had just finished my PhD, I decided to write a conference presentation about Ken Gergen and Klaus Riegel.  Both scholars played important roles in the development of my thinking for my thesis.  During this time I came across a volume (Life-span Developmental Psychology Dialectical Perspectives on Experimental Research, edited by Nancy Datan & Hayne W. Reese,published by Academic Press 1977) that was a result of the Fifth West Virginia University Life-Span Developmental Psychology Conference held at Morgantown, West Virginia in 1976. The conference centred on the work of Riegel and the book included a chapter by Gergen.  


My imagination got the best of me.  What if these two, both influences on my own work, had a conversation following that gathering? As I recently explained, reported in a Times Higher Education article, "Gergen is a giant to our generation, so it was good to look back to a time when he was insecure...I wanted to examine how breakthroughs come, and the price people pay for them". Thus, “On a train from Morgantown” was born.


It seems a short time ago now, but we must not forget that in 2001 digital production was limited, at the personal computer level at least.  I found video-cassette recorded footage of trains that would have been in service in West Virginia in 1976 then convinced a techy at my university to help me cut and edit it.  I wrote a script (much like a radio play) and found people to record it on cassette tape (one in Germany, the rest in Leicester).  I produced overhead projections for some of the visuals and created lots of sound files and edited music (again, on cassette) to fill out the imaginary train journey. 


I packed up all these production materials and caught the ferry to Hamburg and then a train to Berlin and a conference at the Free University to present my grand production … to an audience that would include Mary and Ken Gergen.  When my allotted time came, I spent it dashing about starting up a TV, co-ordinating a cassette player, an overhead projector, etc.—a bit like the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain.

Ken Gergen responded quite emotionally following all of this.  The mostly German-speaking audience seemed a bit confused by it all. 


I recall this as a bit of madness on my part at the time, but also in many ways as the public birth of performative social science, or at least the seeds for its future development.  Being a visual person, I wanted to ‘show’ as well as ‘tell’--and this frustration became central to my efforts in developing PSS.


Because publication is/was the end-all of an academic’s life, I began to think about how to possibly publish ‘Morgantown’.  Because of my visual inclinations, I thought that a film script with all of its optical instructions might do the trick.  So I wrote ‘Morgantown’ up as a screenplay, looking at many scripts in order to get a sense of how to present a visual story as text.  A bit of a Pollyanna at publication, I actually submitted the script to a few publications which I naively thought might be adventurous enough to publish it.  They were not and it was rejected.


I put ‘Morgantown’ in a drawer somewhere and so it languished for almost a decade.  About a year ago, the editor of a special issue on the work of Ken Gergen for Springer’s Psychological Studies contacted me and asked if I would be interested in submitting a paper for the issue.  I responded that, yes, I do have something that may be fit for purpose.  Go ahead, I told myself: ‘I dare you.’  I submitted the script for 'Morgantown'.


To my great surprise, the submission was accepted with little change and now is published as a film script in the special issue on Ken Gergen in Psychological Studies.  In my estimation, this represents a great breakthrough for Performative Social Science, or the use of tools from the arts in dissemination of social science research.  It gives others a reference in support of their own work in moving academic publishers to being more open, even inviting, to alternative presentation formats.


Two major events, one year.  Rufus Stone is so important to me personally and a concerted effort of which I am very proud. I am grateful to all involved in making this happen.  The initial resistance of some to its subject matter in fact played a major part in driving me forward and insuring that I did not give up. 


‘Morgantown’ and its eventual acceptance holds a special place for me, however.  In so many ways it represents ‘working in the dark’ against unknown forces and circumstances, but still being driven by our muses to create and invent. 


Morgantown represents what I like to call  ‘kitchen sink’ work—work produced because creativity compels us to find the means, the ways, the materials and then the outlets.  I never want to forget that it is in these personal efforts the potential to make a difference lies.


Some of the responses to the publication of ‘Morgantown’ are repeated below.  They convince me that efforts to open up channels previously closed to innovation and experimentation are not unfounded and offer support and encouragement to others:

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·       Congratulations. This is really amazing. Thank you for your courage. And for the work that you are doing for all of us.
·       It’s just wonderful to see the glimpse of barriers breaking down between interdisciplinary research and innovative work. Well done!! It is happening a step at a time and we just need to keep on pushing those boundaries.
·       breaks the waves for academics like me
dreaming of more than the written words
to portray researched life
·       I got very inspired, though, when reading about your publication as I share PSS' engagement and ambition to intensify publications moving in between arts/social sciences/performance …I say/shout "GREAT!!!" from Copenhagen! Thank you for sharing!!
·       I continue to watch your career with great interest and derive much hope for my own work from your example.
·       fantastique!!! gives me hope
·       Think it is really important to share this kind of news as it gives all of us who research in creative ways hope!
·       A massive achievement in the current climate!
·       This is fantastic and I received this just perfect for our course in qualitative research methodologies where I am teaching narrative and performative approaches. Will use your article as a brand new example and hope to encourage some of our students to be more daring!