Kip Jones

KIP JONES, an American by birth, has been studying and working in the UK for more than 20 years.
Under the umbrella term of 'arts-led 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 was Reader in Performative Social Science and Qualitative Research at
Bournemouth University for 15 years.
He is now a Visiting Scholar and and an independent author and scholar.

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.
Jones' most recent work involves working with Generation Z youth to tell their stories using
social media.
His ground-breaking use of qualitative methods, including Auto-fiction, 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 14,000 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
and The Independent.

Thursday 18 September 2014

(The Grand Theory of) Neo Emotivism

 Malevich, “Black Suprematic Square”, 1915, oil on linen, 79.5 x 79.5 cm,

“The things that I want to communicate are simply self-evident, emotional things. And the gifts of those things are that they bring both intellectual and emotional gifts — understanding”. Jeff Buckley, singer (Interview with Luisa Cortado, 1995) 

[Download the entire paper here] 

The paper also appeared in Social Science Space

Neo Emotivism. You heard it here first. If I am ever going to come up with a Grand Theory, (in spite of years of denying the possibility of that very construct in a post-modern world), this is it!
  •     There is a New Emotivity emergent in academia worth exploring.

  •     Time and time again, when given the opportunity, scholars long to connect emotionally with the people about whom they are writing.

  •     The difficulty encountered for academics wishing to write creatively is that we are programmed to repeat (endlessly) what we've read to establish “validity”.

  •     When you write to provoke (arouse) readers emotionally, don't mimic words you've read to do it. Instead, chose unique words that equal your experience.

  •     Scholars realising the soundness of their emotional connectivity need to find their own language to express feeling—a new language not simply justified by the idiom preceding them.


Can we move on?
My thinking around the concept of Neo Emotivism began to solidify recently, brought on by two things: a short descriptive phrase about Max Richter's music and an ARTS in Research workshop at Bournemouth University. Allow me to elaborate.

When I read that Max Richter’s minimalist composition for the TV series, The Leftovers, was tagged as ‘Neo-Romantic’ in a promo, I was startled. “Neo-Romantic? How is minimalist music romantic?”  And then I started to realise that it is the same emotional response that I have to Richter’s music that I have to Chopin or Mendelssohn. 

“What is ‘Romanticism’ in music composition?” I wondered. ‘Characteristics often attributed to Romanticism … are:

  •        a new preoccupation with and surrender to Nature
  •        a fascination with the past…
  •        a turn towards the mystic and supernatural 
  •        a longing for the infinite
  •        mysterious connotations of remoteness, the unusual and fabulous, the strange and surprising
  •        a focus on the nocturnal, the ghostly, the frightful, and terrifying
  •        fantastic seeing and spiritual experiences
  •        a new attention given to national identity
  •        emphasis on extreme subjectivism
  •        interest in the autobiographical
  •        discontent with … formulas and conventions’
(Kravitt 1992, 93–94, 107 cited in

These qualities resonate with the characteristics we might look for in Neo Emotivism. There! A checklist.

Can we move on?
The penny began to drop when the Bournemouth University ARTS in Research collaborative met up recently for those two days of experimentation. I am familiar with health and social care academics having a proclivity towards sensitivity to the often-emotional stories of others gleaned through their investigative encounters. What surprised and encouraged me were faculty and students from Media, Design, Engineering and Computing and Tourism with the same ache to connect emotionally with their subjects and to acknowledge the “first person” in their dialogues.

Perhaps we should look for inspiration to the New Romantics of the late 1970s, with their shoulder pads and quiffed hair?  Ziggie Stardust and synthpop? There is a sweet nostalgia often present in my informal biographic encounters with fellow academics, wistful for the days of David Bowie and Kate Bush. Their recollections are often about how we used to be before we were led to believe that we needed to behave (differently). It’s life pre-RAE and REF—the “preREFaelites”, to coin a phrase.  It is often reminiscence about a time in our shared lives of both emotional conflict and emotional connect.

Indeed, scholars often find their own narratives in the stories that people tell them for their research. A big part of Neo Emotivism is embracing this phenomenon instead of backing away from it. The relationships that can be established through such connections are potent and comprised of more than the sum of their parts.

Changing hearts and minds was central to my reasons for making the short film RUFUS STONE and I have written about this elsewhere. I realised quite early in the research process for the film that debate, argument, or evidence—none of these by itself was going to change the opinions of some of the hardheaded bigots in our midst. Should we attempt an emotional appeal, even attempt to provoke an emotive disturbance? Would we then have a chance at changing hearts and minds?

I recently watched a BBC 4 programme with architect Zada Hadid in which she explained how her work has roots in an art movement that is 100 years old. She has long cited the Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malevich as one of her greatest inspirations. Her experience offers a clue to the very way in which arts-based researchers might explore outside their own turf to enrich their present efforts. Hadid found her inspiration from painting in another era, not by simply replicating what was au courant at the moment in her chosen field of architecture. If we continue to only imitate what has directly preceded us in our creative academic endeavours, we will never produce the forward movements in scholarship necessary for change and innovation.  As a student, Hadid bravely embraced Malevich as inspiration and flew with it.  Actually, much of her architecture today looks like it is floating or flying. Studying Malevich opened up vast possibilities for her creative explorations and still influences the way in which she works today.

The early waves of renewed interest in qualitative and narrative approaches (or the qualitative and narrative “turns” in research as they were called in the early 1990s) established protocols, procedures, and a language that, by now, are repeated habitually. Perhaps it time now to look elsewhere, (to culture, to the arts, to literature, etc. both past and present), to find fresh inspiration and vocabulary to support our new emotive efforts. For example, I often recommend that academics read the contemporary fiction of conceptual novelists such as Michael Kimball in order to unleash creativity and a new, uncluttered way of using language in their academic writing. Should we continue to routinely repeat what are by now shop-worn words in our academic out-pourings such as ‘rigour’, ‘robust’, ‘thick’, ‘embodied’ and ‘evocative’ to support (or deny?) our emotive tendencies? Most of those words have been repeated ad infinitum for more than 20 years now, degenerating into no more than code words signalling membership in a particular scholarly community. They have become words without force.

Can we move on?
The first step in reporting emotive encounters in research, therefore, is moving away from concepts that have evolved from measurement—terms like ‘empathic validity’,  'reliability', etc. Rejecting the use of statistical language to describe the emotional components of our labours is key to communicating an understanding of the How’s and Why’s of the human condition. The second step is to find our own individual language (a descriptive and poetic one?) that does not mimic the status quo language of a specific scholarship simply because of our insecurities or longing to fit in with a particular club or movement. 

Acknowledging the emotive connections in our work doesn’t mean simply producing wishy-washy, touchy-feely texts either. In fact, Neo Emotivism insists upon tougher, more resilient, profoundly compassionate yet hard-hitting, productions. This is accomplished through the creative use of language—textural/visual/physical—or some new mode of communication that we haven’t even attempted yet.

An emotional response by a scholar need not be validated like a parking ticket. 

Feelings aren’t the same as facts.
As Jeff Buckley said, ‘The gifts of those things are that they bring both intellectual and emotional gifts — understanding.’

Neo Emotivism may very well cause a riot … or a revolution!

“Let a thousand flowers bloom …”

Download the paper here


  1. Yes. Kip, I have managed to live in the epistemological interstices my entire academic career. Educated first as a bench biologist at University of London and Leeds, , then 20 years working with Carl Rogers in the US, where I now live, and having no talent as an artist, I have made do with living in multiple frames and making my psychological observations from the inside out. . Neo-emotivism is a mouthful, but I'll play with it. I have no doubt (but many doubts, of course) that we are at point in the history of western civilization where over reliance on the cognitive, formal, rational, objective, and quantitative epistemologies is killing us and everything else. I will follow your blog.

  2. ... neo-emotivism sounds weird. but now i see! my work is on subcultures, for the most part. i focus on rituals + collective rituals, and identity. how rituals manifest themselves now and why.. but really about the act of surrendering ones identity to the collective. taking different exclusive groups, breaking them down, and creating a new collective identity that's inclusive by default.

    most of my research is on the trance subculture [within electronic dance subcultures], but have also just finished a project on star trek subculture + fandom. it reminds me somewhat of aca-fandom, i'd love to hear your take on that if possible. i struggle with aca-fandom somewhat. the term implies i'm a fan which feels a bit too subjective. even if i am a fan, it's only more reason to remain objective. but so much is lost when you take yourself out of the equation. the best, most honest and productive interviews i get occur only when i manage to connect emotionally or empathize with the person. a lot of the times this leads to engagements i couldn't have anticipated or known what to ask to get there. however, many of these loose value if i fail to describe my experience of the engagement. taken out of context for scientific purposes creates a nice objective, safe and controlled environment for the study. but it also leaves this huge blindspot that clouds the big picture. aca-fandom is a nice term. but i'd like to believe my theories would be just as valid whether i am a fan or not.

    connecting on a more emotional level is nothing more than a technique calculated to prove one thing or another. how this is done, what stories are told, how the bond occurred, are all extremely important pieces of the puzzle. we didn't bond because we both love captain picard, but my confession invites more detailed accounts the subject might've thought irrelevant to bring up without it. does it even matter if i am a fan at all as long as i use neo-emotivism to get on the same page as my subject? i think not. jenkins might disagree..

    anyway, awesome read. helps me tie loose ends and sparks up lots of new possibilities :)