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.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Rufus Stone selected for Torin Film Festival

Rufus Stone has been selected for this year’s Torin Film Festival, 23 Nov-1Dec in Torino, Italy. Held every November, it is the second largest film festival in Italy, following the Venice Film Festival.
The 30-minute film is the result of three years of in-depth research into ageing and sexuality in rural Britain at Bournemouth University. The project, led by Bournemouth University’s Dr Kip Jones, uses the film as its main output.
Rufus Stone was directed by Josh Appignanesi (The Infidel) and produced by Parkville Pictures, London. The film stars well-known stage and television actor, William Gaunt in the title role. Jones was author of the story and acted in the capacity of Executive Producer for the film.
The film will be shown three times during the festival, which opens with a screening of Dustin Hoffman’s directorial début, Quartet. The festival will close with Ginger & Rosa, a 1960s coming-of-age story from U.K. director Sally Potter.
Rufus Stone will be screened in the Festa Mobile sidebar, made up of mostly European and Italian premiers, including Anna Karenina, Joe Wright’s adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy classic that stars Keira Knightley and Jude Law.
Rufus Stone was recently featured as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science at Bournemouth University and will be shown locally as part of BU’s Festival of Learning next June. Future screenings are also planned for Birbeck, Cambridge and Oxford Universities.
More information on the research project and the film
Torin Film Festival 

 Watch the film here:

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Case is made for fusion of the Arts and Social Sciences

In an article in The Qualitative Report (Vol 17: 18, 1-8) published electronically recently, I make a case for the potential of arts-based social science to reach audiences and engage communities 

Entitled, “Connecting Research with Communities through Performative Social Science” (PSS), the paper contextualises both the use of the Arts in Social Science, as well as the utility of Social Science in the Arts and Humanities. PSS is conceived of as a fusion of the Arts and Social Sciences, creating a new paradigm where tools from the Arts and Humanities are explored for their utility in enriching the ways in which we investigate Social Science subjects and involve communities in our research efforts and diffusion of our collaborative endeavours. Performative Social Science is redefined in terms of a synthesis that can break down old boundaries, open up channels of communication and empower communities through engagement.

The article harks back the beginnings of PSS by recalling the influential AHRC funded series of workshops, “Social Science in Search of its Muse” held at BU throughout 2006-07, reported in a short video. This was followed by a Special Issue on Performative Social Science for the online, qualitative journal, Forum: Qualitative Social Research (Jones et al., May, 2008), providing a wide range of examples and manifestations of PSS, with contributions from various disciplines/subject areas, and realized through a wide variety of approaches to research practice.

Since these early efforts in PSS, the impact of these explorations has been measurable, including several completed PhDs utilizing principles of PSS, many journal articles, films and conference presentations nationally and internationally and further funding by Research Councils UK of research based in Performative Social Science methods.

I then turn to examples from my own work to illustrate what happens when Art talks to Social Science and Social Science responds to Art. The benefits of such interaction and interdisciplinarity are outlined in relation to a recently completed project using multi-methods, which resulted in the production and current dissemination of the professional short film, Rufus Stone.

I conclude that “Performative Social Science provides the overarching intellectual prowess, strategies and methodological and theoretical bases to engage and unite scholars across disciplines and, in turn, connect researchers’ endeavours with communities and stakeholders. Performative Social Science or a fusion of the arts and sciences are central to both community engagement and as catalysts for change”.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Rufus Stone reviewed for The Qualitative Report

 Patricia Leavy, well-known author and innovator, has reviewed Rufus Stone the movie for the on-line qualitative journal, The Qualitative Report.  Entitled, "A Review of Rufus Stone: The Promise of Arts-Based Research" the review is available for download.

Patricia is an independent Author, Researcher and Commentator who lives in Kennebunk, Maine USA. Among her 11 books she is the author of Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice (Guilford Press), Essentials of Transdisciplinary Research: Using Problem-Centered Methodologies (Left Coast Press) and the research-informed novel Low-Fat Love (Sense Publishers). For more info please visit her website.

Just some of her responses to Rufus Stone the movie:

  • Rufus Stone is both an incredible short film and it embodies all that is best about arts-based research.
  • I am absolutely blown over by how good Rufus Stone is.
  • The film is not only a glaring look at how homophobia and intolerance can shape people’s experiences, but it is also a film very much about looking at who we are, how we became who we are, and how we allow our lives to unfold.
  • Anyone of any age and background can sit and watch this film, understand it, learn from it and emotionally connect to it.
  • If research is intended to teach, illuminate, shed light on topics of import and challenge our assumptions, Rufus Stone is an exemplary piece of research.
"This film was as good as most Oscar-nominated shorts, and vastly superior to many.  In my opinion, it was just about as good as a short film gets".

Watch the film here:

Monday, 13 August 2012

Rufus Stone double win at Rhode Island Film Fest!

Rufus Stone  has just scooped two awards at the prestigious Rhode Island International Film Festival in the USA, the only short to win in two categories at the festival:  the Grand prize in the Alternative Spirit category and the Youth Jury Award for best GLBT film at the festival.

The Rhode Island International Film Festival consisted of six days and nights of screenings, meetings and greetings featured more than 200 films selected from more than 4,000 entrants.

The Youth Jury is a programme that introduces youth to the world of independent film. The youth attend multiple screenings during the Festival, Q&A’s, and festival events. Their goal is to deliberate, and choose a Best Feature, Best Documentary, and Best Short to receive the Youth Jury award.

Just a few reactions to Rufus Stone from audience members at earlier screeings:
“Critically the authenticity of the film shone through – the characters were real and genuine”.
  •   “emotionally gripping”
  •   “technically innovative and striking”
  •   “a brilliant way to portray research"
  •   "beautiful and very intense
  •   “a quite remarkable film”
  •   “a brilliant film, beautifully crafted and full of empathy”
“Rarely does one get the chance of seeing a love affair between two men portrayed on screen credibly and realistically, not to say very movingly”.

“A kind of ‘ To Kill a Mocking Bird’ type film that makes you really think about your morals”.

Bournemouth University's Kip Jones (The Media School & HSC) said, "Winning at prestigious film festivals such as RIIFF is important in getting the film seen by a wide audience. This is the kind of impact that we imagined from the outset of the research project itself". 

"I am particularly pleased for our director, Josh Appignanesi, who took on board the concept of fusion of research and a professional film and visually brought it to life through Rufus Stone."

"Gay and Pleasant Land? -a study about positioning, ageing and gay life in rural South West England and Wales" was  funded by Research Councils UK.

The Rufus Stone microsite gives more information about the film, and the research that inspired it.
Watch the film here:

Monday, 25 June 2012

Film selected for Rhode Island Film Festival

Rufus Stone has been selected for acceptance by the judges for exhibition during this year's FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF), August 7-12, 2012. RIIFF is the largest public film festival in New England and an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences qualifying event.
In 2002, Flickers was notified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) that it had elected to recognize the Rhode Island International Film Festival as a qualifying festival for the Short Films category for the Annual Academy Awards. With more than 7,000 film festivals worldwide, only 65 have this recognition.
"One of the top 10 Short Film Festivals and Top 10 International Film Festivals in the United States."

- Chris Gore, author of The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide, 2nd edition


Watch the trailer for Rufus Stone  the movie here.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Rufus Stone to be screened at ESRC Festival of Social Science

Congratulations to Bournemouth University’s Dr Kip Jones who has been awarded funding from the UK's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to run a public engagement event as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science later this year.

The event will be a multi-activity format including a screening of the film Rufus Stone and launch of the method deck ‘Methods to Diversity’ –a community organising tool, led by Dr Lee-Ann Fenge; day to include small group discussions, distribution and hands-on experience with the method deck, reports from Research Projects (BU & Equality SW); participation of Research Advisory Group and Intercom Trust.

The ESRC Festival of Social Science runs from 3-10 November, 2012.  Further details to follow.

Watch the trailer for Rufus Stone here. 
 Watch the film here:

Monday, 11 June 2012

Ultimate trailer for Rufus Stone released!

The joint efforts of Trevor Hearing (BU Media School), Ross Hillard (composer) and Kip Jones (Media School & HSC) have produced a short trailer for Rufus Stone the movie that captures both the story of the film as well as the beauty of its cinematography in two and a half minutes.

Rufus Stone is a film about love, sexual awakening and treachery, set in the bucolic countryside of south west England, and viewed through the lens of growing older. It is based on knowledge gathered as part of the research project “Gay and Pleasant Land? – a study about positioning, ageing and gay life in rural South West England and Wales.”

Our thanks to Pam Postrel, mOcean Entertainment in LA, for her advice on making this trailer. mOcean‘s most recent success was producing the trailer for the Hollywood block-buster, ‘The Avengers’.

Watch for future screenings of the film at conferences and film festivals over the year.  Through this process, we hope to develop resources to disseminate the film more widely.  Always happy to talk with any parties who might offer possibilities for exhibition and/or distribution of the film! Please contact Kip Jones, Executive Producer, at

 Watch the film here:

Sunday, 13 May 2012

"Playing with Purpose" work from the Gergens

Mary and Ken Gergen at 
an Art Deco Hotel in 
Bournemouth, 2011

Mary and Ken assembled some playthings and heaped them into their toy chest.  It was a beautifully handcrafted crate (painted apple green with wheels attached) that they filled with fascinating curiosities.  The couple hauled their container to their nearby playground, lingering near the gate to see who would join them.

The bossy boy, whom everybody habitually obeys and is frequently named ‘Jack’, appeared. “We will have a football game with teams and rules and regulations!” shouted Jack, hands on hips.

Pretty Priscilla, the playground Princess and socially astute, knew that jumping rope got the boys to watch the girls and so rallied them at the other end of the playing field: “C’mon, girls!”

The boys started playing football and the girls tagged along with Priscilla and began jumping rope.  Everyone felt safe, even knowledgeable, within this binary.

Except for Mary and Ken.  They wanted to encourage an escapade and persuade others to join in.

“Mystery and adventure!” Ken enticed.

 “Serious fun!” Mary chimed in.

Your desire for this story to have a conclusion is palatable.  But it doesn’t. You will have to read this book and decide whether to play.

Mary and Ken are waiting.  So am I.

Playing with Purpose
Adventures in Performative Social Science
Mary M Gergen (Author); Kenneth J Gergen (Author)
320 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / May, 2012

Hardback (978-1-59874-545-0)
Paperback (978-1-59874-546-7)
Available May, 2012
Left Coast Press 

The book includes a Chapter by Kip Jones and Mary Gergen:  "Editorial: A Conversation about Performative Social Science"  previously published in FQS.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Sociological Cinema recommends "I Can Remember the Night" for teaching

A short video, one of my earliest efforts in the development of Performative Social Science.The Sociological Cinema, (“designed to help sociology instructors incorporate videos into their classes”) has recently recommended one of Dr Kip Jones’ (HSC and the Media School) earliest stabs at visualizing research data via audio/visual production.  Produced in his bedsit and in a friend’s studio in Leicester, Jones used photographs on loan from the National Trust and dialogue retrieved in his PhD research on informal care to produce this short A/V work on an antiquated PC, using an inexpensive camera to film it.

The Sociological Cinema suggests that ‘I Can Remember the Night’could be useful in a class on cognitive sociology, highlighting how cognitive processes, such as memory, are shaped by socio-cultural events, such as divorce. In addition to using the clip as a way to interrogate biography and narrative as sociological methods of research, the clip could also be a nice launching pad from which to introduce an assignment where students create their own videos, using their own biographical narratives as a window through which to explore larger sociological phenomena, much in the way C.W. Mills suggested’.

Sociological Cinema page
The video itself is available on Vimeo and portrays “Polly”, a 65 year old woman from the Midlands in the UK, who recalls the time as a child when her parents sat her down and asked her which of them she wanted to be with. Her story, re-narrated by three players, represents how this traumatic event became an enduring memory throughout the various stages of her life.

Polly’s story is also told in more depth in two academic journal articles:
Jones, K. (2006) “Informal Care as Relationship: the Case of the Magnificent Seven” Journal of Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing, 13: 214-220.
Jones, K. (2005) “The Art of Collaborative Storytelling: arts-based representations of narrative contexts”. Invited paper for: International Sociological Association Research Committee on Biography and Society RC38 Newsletter, October 2005.

Other audio/video productions are also freely available on the column on the right or on Jones’ Vimeo pages.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

"Popularizing Research" is finally published!

Peter Lang Publishing announces the publication of Popularizing Research: Engaging New Genres, Media, and Audiences, edited by Phillip Vannini of Canada’s Royal Roads University.

This long-awaited resource is published with an opening Chapter by Bournemouth University’s Kip Jones.


The Chapter, “Short Film as Performative Social Science: The Story Behind "’Princess Margaret’"  is written by Jones, Reader in Qualitative Research and Performative Social Science at Bournemouth, who shares a joint appointment in HSC and the Media School. The Chapter outlines his fascinating and innovative approach to research and its dissemination via a fusion of the arts and social sciences.

Jones utilizes his chapter to recount an unconventional journey to academic publishing that certainly did not follow the usual route of journal or book publication. The Chapter revisits “The one about Princess Margaret”, one of Jones’ earliest attempts at audio/visual script writing, by recalling his initial motivation and enthusiasm for finding innovative ways to express scholarship and how his thinking about the use of tools from the arts in social science has evolved since those early days. These personal experiences are then offered up as advice in a summation for both social scientists and arts practitioners who may be interested in this new paradigm of Performative Social Science through a discussion about collaboration and pathways to impact.

Popularizing Research offers academics, professional researchers, and students a new methodological book/website hybrid by way of a broad survey of ways to popularize research. As an edited interdisciplinary book accompanied by a website featuring samples of popularized research, it will have the potential of not only telling its readers about new genres, new media, new strategies, and new imperatives for popularizing research, but most importantly it will also be useful in showing how these new processes work in the end, what they sound like, and what they look like.

For more information and to view the video representing Jones’ contribution to the book, see his page on the book’s website under ‘Film’.

Excerpt from Chapter 1. Short Film as Performative Social Science: The Story Behind "Princess Margaret" by Kip Jones

Publish or perish drives much of academic life.  It has its origins in hard science where the first to get an experiment, finding, or theory into publication won the prize. Other academic disciplines followed suit by imitating this system. This structure led to the development of an academic writing style and a vetting process that are both now antiquated and suspect. However, we’re all frequently caught up in this bind, me included.

Qikipedia recently cautioned us on Twitter that “about 200,000 academic journals are published in English. The average number of readers per article is five” (Qikipedia, 2010). Funders are now looking for outcomes from their investments that demonstrate how we will affect change in the wider world; in other words, the world beyond the very few other academics who happen to read a journal article. Fortunately, publishing is evolving and, more and more, supplementary multimedia are requested as part of the publication process. This climate of change presents opportunities to get the products of our alternative methods of dissemination of social-science data to wider audiences—to popularize research.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Stuff about ‘Stuff’

These two seemingly disparate fields become something new, more than the sum of their parts, a delicious undertaking.  Alison is adept at working with both sides of her brain and I compliment her on that achievement”.

Ah, youth.  When I went to Art College in the 1960s, I left behind a proper four-year college education halfway through and my father’s expectation that I would ever amount to anything.

A ‘simple country boy’, as I am fond of describing myself in retrospect, I went to the big city and encountered what was initially quite an overwhelming experience.  Fellow art students seemed more talented and sophisticated than me.  The other boys had locks that certainly were longer than mine.  That became my first trial then: to grow my hair.

The second challenge was to choose a ‘major’ for my studies.  I had arrived with a passion for theatre set design, but there was no major in that.  I chose ‘three-dimensional design’ because I thought that was a close second.  

It turns out it wasn’t. 

Three-D was in fact about Industrial Design: engineering and building models and stuff. I spent the majority of my time making spidery mock-ups of bridges and such out of balsa wood strips, which would somehow always get crushed in the journey from my apartment to class.  Sniffing the air-plane glue used to assemble them turned out to be the only unexpected pleasure of this new experience.  At other times, perspective drawings were required that needed to be India inked with Rapidograph pens.  Always a few steps from completion, the pen would tit squirt a huge blob of black ink all over the drawing and ruin it. 

There were other possibilities in choosing a major at Art College, of course.  Painting was one, but those students all seemed a bit too talented and determined.  Illustration was another, but those with an interest in that seemed already to have all the skills necessary (and I certainly didn’t).  There was Ceramics, but I generally made a muddy mess at the potter’s wheel at the required introductory lessons.  In fear of no future job prospects otherwise, I stuck to Industrial Design. No, I was not brave enough to take a more adventurous gamble on ‘art for art’s sake’.

There were courses in Typography, but I had little idea what Typography was.  The teacher who ran the Typography course was called “Jim”, even by his students.  This was rare at that time, because most instructors were called ‘Mr. This’ or ‘Mr. That’.  His students, who worshipfully followed him around between classes, all seemed a bit uh, …well, what we might call ‘alternative’ these days.  Word of mouth was that he was really into innovation, new music, even revolution.  His students were going to turn the world of Art on its head.  They were going to change everything. 

He (and they) were quite scary to me. 

Now I say scary, but we must remember that we are talking about a country boy in the big city who was just learning about the possibilities of other ways of doing, living, being.  An example: an ‘older’ student in our class (who had served in the Navy) invited us to his place one night to listen to some music.  It turns out that he smoked ‘weed’ and had us listening to some strange folk singer, Bob Dylan.  It was too weird for me and I left quickly. 

This is ironic because only two years later I would be listening to Buffy Saint Marie records whilst doing lines of speed purchased from a go-go dancer.  In the final analysis, Madame Bovary had nothing on me in terms of ruination in the big city!

So this brings us to talk about Typography more soberly and page design more generally.  Eventually, I did learn something about two-dimensional design from Lenore Chorney, a wonderful teacher of Fashion Illustration who became my mentor for several years.  I embraced the excitement that she brought to the page in her talks about Dada artists, Suprematism and Constructivism from Moscow, Bauhaus design from Germany, Futurism from Italy, and De Stijl from Holland.


I was a slow starter, but I got there in the end.  Because of or in spite of those early experiences, the visual is of central importance to everything I have done and still do. I often comment that I learn more by watching what people do than listening to what they say.

In spite of (or because of) my visual orientation, I have returned to the concept of text and the page frequently in my work in Performative Social Science (See Popularizing Research), particularly in my considerations of ‘audience’ and specifically, the primary importance of the reader when our outputs are textural.  How do we engage the reader in a dialogue? How do we encourage our readers to invest their own experiences in their interface with our text?

An early (Jones, 2004) attempt was made at both audience engagement and alternative use of textural production in the published results of my interview with social psychologist, Mary Gergen (”Thoroughly Post-Modern Mary”), where I used a variety of typography and illustrations within a unique page design to represent that biography in an academic journal.

Four years later, Sally Berridge (2008) produced a stunning effort in a graphic design of her entire thesis, represented in the FQS article,“What Does It Take? Auto/biography as Performative PhD Thesis”.

Now we have ‘Stuff’ by Alison Barnes (2010) or ‘Typography as a language of performance’.  ‘Stuff’ is a slim, beautifully crafted volume that provides unique and personal answers to the query, ‘What makes your house a home?’ Items such as photographs, travel souvenirs and childhood toys become autobiographical objects and form a spatial representation of identity in the book.  The reader truly becomes engaged in a process of interaction. The readers’ experiences are embellished by their own personal reflections and memories, redefining yet again, the on-going social construction of the meaning of home.

‘Stuff’ is important to me and to Performative Social Science because it is a successful example of the fusion of art and social science in a single project.  The levels of both design and social science compete with each other for praise.  These two seemingly disparate fields become something new, more than the sum of their parts, a delicious undertaking.  Alison is adept at working with both sides of her brain and I compliment her on that achievement.

I never did complete Art College.  Life happened as we like to say and I moved on with it.  Several years later I did cobble together my credits from the initial college along with those from the Art College and fashion them into an undergrad degree of sorts by taking a few more academic credits at a local University. 

I fondly recall an Anthropology course at that University for which I produced a final project—a game in the shape of a three-dimensional model of a haunted house. It came with little plastic babies that were the game pieces.  You dropped them down the house’s chimney to play.  The professor was taken aback, but he did give me an ‘A’ for my efforts. 

I had been to Art College, after all.

For the time-being, you can read about Alison Barnes’ journey with ‘Stuff’ (and see some examples) on her blog.

This blog is produced using Georgia typeface.  I thought that providing this information would be an ironic touch.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Rufus Stone the movie: Trivia

A compiliation of trivia from 
the making of Rufus Stone the movie. 

The 'mirroring' by the two younger characters of their older counterparts was conceived after the Exec Producer shared a pas de deux from Petit's Proust ballet with the film's director. The swimming scene in Rufus was also partly based on this ballet.


"Morel et Saint-Loup ou le combat des anges" interprété par Stéphane Bullion et Florian Magnenet Extrait de "Proust ou les intermittences du coeur" ...

       'Abigail', the young tattle-tale in Rufus was named after another scandalmonger, 'Abigail', from 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller.

Martha Myers-Lowe (above) who plays Abigail in Rufus Stone also played Ian Curtis' sister in the film about the band Joy Division, 'Control'.
        Flip's line, "I'm not sure if the place is ready to receive 'gentlemen callers'" is an homage to Tennessee Williams. 


       The name 'Rufus Stone' was chosen for the film and the character after months of ruminating. The author saw a sign for "Rufus Stone" in the New Forest and remarked: 'That sounds just like a character in a Thomas Hardy novel!'

      The name 'Flip' is short for 'Philippe'. In the back story, Flip's mother ,who married a farmer, was from the nearby town and put on 'airs'. She gave her boys French names, which bullying quickly shortened.

    Rufus' hands in the opening close-up are actually those of boom operator, Dan Rhodes, who stood in for the shot.

             The film was shot over five days in July with a cast and crew of more than 45 people in eight locations in rural Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire.

It was director Haneke's comment about 'The White Ribbon' that partly inspired the story behind Rufus Stone: "‘It’s very simple to get a cross section of society within a village; you get a microcosm of the social macrocosm’.

        Rufus Stone was shot entirely on the Arri Alexa digital camera. "ARRI is to filmmaking, cameras and lenses, what the Mercedes is to the automobile".

The biggest thrill of the shoot for Exec Producer Kip Jones was watching the 'fire starter' at work. Jones had some problems with playing with matches as a child, he admits. 

       Discussions between Director Josh Appignanesi and Exec Producer/Writer Kip Jones began in 2006. It took more than two years to raise the funding and four years to complete the research, before the writing for the script of Rufus Stone began.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Pinterest: a new potential for visual communication

I have joined Pinterest and begun to play with creating a page.  First one: 'Beauty'.  Some of my own photographs and others that inspire me.
My page on Pinterest

13 Facts About Pinterest Users [INFOGRAPHIC]

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Tickled pink: the year behind, the year ahead.


"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:

·       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!