Kip Jones

KIP JONES, an American by birth, has been studying and working in the UK for more than 15 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 11,000 people in 150
countries over the past year alone.

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
and The Independent.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Title tittle-tattle

“The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.” —Joan Didion

Dear Tweedledum and Tweedledee*, I see via Google citation alert that you mention two of my articles in your recent piece about titles. ... What was your title?

"Some papers have interesting and/or catchy titles, perhaps more so in the social sciences than in health journals. Sometimes these catchy titles are just too cryptic, for example from ‘On a train Morgantown: A film script’ 11 and from the same author ‘How Did I Get to Princess Margaret? (And How Did I Get Her to the World Wide Web?)’12 . For both papers one needs to read the paper to understand the title. So before suggesting a funny title, remember that articles with funny titles are less cited than more traditional ones as an analysis of papers published in psychology journals suggested".
I would suggest that both my mentioned titles are creative rather than simply cryptic. I am not sure that I would categorise the titles as 'funny' either. The point of a creative title is to attract an audience, in spite of your opinions. I explained my choice of the title for 'On a Train from Morgantown', actually, right in the article:
 "I had always had the film, "Caught on a Train" by Stephen Poliakoff, in mind when writing the original script and wanted to continue with a similar sort of visual evocation for the written form" (Jones, 2011).
"On a Train from Morgantown" was an invited article for a prestigious psychology journal special issue about Kenneth Gergen.  It has been widely read  (i.e., read more than the average three times with 50 views on just one repository). The fact that it is a film script published in an academic psychology journal is a major breakthrough for dissemination of Performative Social Science. This innovation in communication of arts-based research was acknowledged in an article about its publication in Times Higher Education and on several blog sites. The title was never questioned by either the journal editor or the Times reporter.

I took umbrage at your use of the word "funny" (twice, in close proximity to one another) to describe my titles because 'The One about Princess Margaret" was, ironically, always meant to be humorous. The word "funny", however, can connote "odd" or "inappropriate" or "misplaced", something your article then goes on to try to substantiate. I wrote about the careful choice of the title in the first version of Princess Margaret, again, in the article:
"The title ("The One about Princess Margaret") itself is a play on the titles for “Friends” episodes (e.g., “The One Where Rachel Finds Out”) and humorous stories (“Have you heard the one about …?”). I wanted the production to be clearly placed within the genre of popular culture, but reinvent it for an academic setting" (Jones, 2006).
"Princess Margaret" is very much a body or portfolio of work supporting the original video production. These follow-up textural outputs produce a trail, trace or map of methodological underpinnings and production values for a Performative Social Science output via video. The title varies from publication to publication, journal articles to book chapters. "The One about Princess Margaret" was published originally as a journal article (21 citations so far), then invited as two separate book chapters, including the *offending* title,"How Did I Get to Princess Margaret? (And ow Did I Get Her to the World Wide Web?)". This means the title went past at least four editors and several reviewers, but you know better. The article describes the project background and includes the script for the original audio visual production. The video itself has been viewed about 500 times in four years on various sites and in classrooms worldwide, the whole point of writing the article and chapters in the first place.

The fact that both of these articles may be used more as inspiration for further development in arts-based research and not simply to spawn citations in subsequent journal articles is a point missed by a 'citation only' impact approach.  Both articles open up possibilities for alternative ways of expressing and disseminating research in any 'subject' area; impact beyond the page, in other words. The final impact is with the readers, audiences and communities to whom Performative Social Science efforts are directed. They make the final judgements.

Nonetheless, as I work to further disseminate my work through social media outlets, I am finding that even the "funny" titles are not always catchy enough and further work needs to be done to develop short descriptions or titles to attract a very fast-moving and attention-limited audience gaze, even amongst academics. Developing 'tag lines' (a device from film distribution) etc. for articles is a whole new approach with which I am currently experimenting. 'Intriguing' rather than 'cryptic' is certainly my watchword in these endeavours.

Perhaps if your article had explored these kinds of developments in publication and dissemination rather than desperately trying to find examples for your scorn,  it would have been more 'interesting'. As it stands, it is pretty basic textbook fodder. I mostly skimmed it because, on your advice, I knew what it said already by the title.


PS: "'The Bridges of Madison County'.  Huh? What's dat? Why would I want to read/see somethin' called that?"
PPS: Please feel free to send my reply along to the long list of 'authors' of your article.

*A response to a journal article by two of my colleagues at my university which cited two of my articles as  examples of bad journal article titles.
Jones, K. (2011) “On a train from Morgantown: A filmscript”. Psychological Studies (Springer). DOI 10.1007/s12646-011-0123-9
Jones, K. (2012) “Short Film as Performative Social Science: The Story Behind "’Princess Margaret’". Ch. in Popularizing Research, P. Vannini, Ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Jones, K. (2009) “How Did I Get to Princess Margaret? (And How Did I Get Her to the World Wide Web?)” Ch. in M. Srinivasan & R. Mathur (Eds.), Ethnography and The Internet: An Exploration. Nagarjuna Hills, Punjagutta, India: ICFAI University Press.  

Jones, K. (2007) “The one about Princess Margaret” Forum: Qualitative Social Research Special Issue on Virtual Ethnography 8: 3 (Sept 2007).

 "The One About Princess Margaret"-Script-FQS

Jones, K. (2006) "The one about Princess Margaret" (Video) 


  1. That this was done by colleagues from your university, to me, implies jealousy on their part. Rufus Stone has had a large impact on a far flung audience. From film festivals to NY Times, Rufus Stone is making a name for itself and for you. Can the same be said of their work? I spend a lot of time with juveniles and this is exactly the type of behavior I am accustomed to seeing when one set feels another is getting too much attention. <3 You -- American Niece #2.

  2. Dear American Niece #2,
    Not sure why this implies ‘jealousy’. Most certainly Rufus Stone has a far reaching influence across academia and the 'real' world. I have read both of Kip's papers we quoted and value them. That does not take away that interesting, humorous, obscure, funny, exciting, or whatever you may call titles such as ‘Title tittle-tattle’, ‘On a train from Morgantown: A film script’ or ‘How Did I Get to Princess Margaret? (And How Did I Get Her to the World Wide Web?’.
    I’m also not sure since when offering critique of a colleague’s academic work is juvenile, but I’m sure that’s my lack of ‘youthful’ insight.

    Edwin van Teijlingen, Bournemouth University.

  3. Comments from Twitter (anonymised):

    Bratty childishness isnt reserved for children - we've all seen it in (some) colleagues/PIs/mentors :(

    It appears you've been victim of the envy and pretentiousness that plague academia. Brave man!

  4. Edwin,
    In the American Corporate world to use the same colleague in two negative examples in any context (conversation, formal meeting, etc.) is tantamount to either declaring war or having a tantrum. To do so in the public context of a printed piece simply ups the stakes. Now, I suppose that on the other side of the pond the accepted conventions of politeness could be different -- but frankly, Brits are generally considered and expected to be more (not less) polite than those of us who have dropped the "u"s from most of our spelling. Had you picked one of his titles among a score more generated by others then I might consider the possibility that he was being sensitive. That you picked two, according to every convention of accepted behavior to which I have ever been exposed, is outside the pocket. And, I do truly suspect that the acclaim that Kip's work has been receiving is the true cause. Also, his titles rock. If you lack the breadth of exposure to culture (popular and otherwise) to recognize that, well-- I consider that a failure on your part also. Now -- do you see what I did there? I picked a second thing for which to criticize you. How did that feel? Did it feel objective? Did it feel fair or right? And mine was with cause given that you "drew blood" of my blood. When you started it was unprovoked. Shameful.
    American Niece #2

  5. Another from Twitter:
    "I was under impression that we had to read ALL journals to understand the title? Title is to 'hook' reader"