THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Social Science blog

28 posts categorized "Sociology"

22 September 2014

Exploring Play – a free, open, online course

Add comment Comments (0)

Professor Marsh writes:

Beginning on 29th September 2014 and running for 7 weeks, the University of Sheffield has developed a new, free, online course ‘Exploring Play: the Importance of Play in Everyday Life’ which will be delivered through the FutureLearn platform. Through the course, we aim to investigate play as a serious subject for study and in particular examine the place of play as an
important part of our everyday lives, across our life courses. Play is not only something that occurs in childhood, with a moving away from ‘childish pleasures’ in adulthood, but it is an essential part of life.

‘Exploring Play’ doesn’t require any previous knowledge in the area, just an enthusiasm to know more. It introduces key theories and concepts, and explores the many definitions there are of play. Given that play is such a fuzzy concept, some consideration is given to the meaning of play from different personal, academic and professional perspectives and its value in terms of its contribution to our daily lives is a matter for extensive reflection.

The course is highly interactive and uses video, articles, discussions, quizzes and a wide variety of resources including the British Library Playtimes website. This website was created as part of the AHRC Beyond Text project Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age and provides information on the history and nature of play, drawing on some of the data collected in that project. In the ‘Exploring Play’ course, learners will engage with the material on the British Library website and consider what it tells them about changes in play over time.
Children playing on stones in river
Children playing on stones in a river © University of Sheffield

One of the main aims of the course is to enable participants to understand the very varied nature of play as it takes place across difference contexts. For example, the nature of play in different cultures is explored and learners will consider the way in which the values of different societies impact on the play that takes place within them.

Muffin the Mule

Muffin the Mule puppet, V&A Museum of Childhood Collection

A very wide range of topics is considered, including outdoor play spaces for children and teenagers, playful adult engagement with urban environments, disability and play, play in virtual worlds and play in the workplace. Through the seven weeks of the course, learners will gain a great deal of knowledge about play - and engage in some playful learning activities along the way!

To sign up visit: www.futurelearn.com/courses/play

31 July 2014

Challenging assumptions. Law Gender and Sexuality: sources and methods in socio-legal research (part 2)

Add comment Comments (0)

Last week, Jon Sims introduced some of the archives and collections discussed at this year’s Socio-Legal studies training day on law, gender and sexuality . In this post, Jon looks at British Library resources that address the interaction of law, gender and sexuality during the 20th century

Websmall-GayNews11
Gay news, issue 11 [1973]

Stepping back in time, Mass Observation Online (available in the British Library reading rooms) provides access to survey material collected by volunteers during and following WWII, on themes including sexual behaviour, family planning, and war time industry. Stepping further back, English translations and academic commentary on classical works by Plato, Aeschylus or Aristophanes provide historical insight on, for example, women’s role in high public office and the military, and female symbolism in the representation of justice. They also support investigation of the cultural impact of classical literature on the judicial and legislative process in the 19th and 20th centuries.

On August 4th 1921, with reference to ancient history and the supposed role of women in the destruction of classical empire and civilization, a proposed amendment to criminalise “gross indecency between females” was introduced by the Criminal Law Amendment Bill (House of Lords, 1921). The Parliamentary debate on the bill reveals varied contexts with which women and same sex sexual relations were framed by the men of both houses (Nancy Astor voted against the clause).

In addition to anecdote from family law practice, reference to the erosion of family structures and social institutions, “feminine morality” and vice, talk of “perversion” is couched in terms of “brain abnormalities” and neuro-science. While the “medico-legal” stance on sexuality enters this legislative discourse in the form of Ernest Wild’s citation (HC Deb 4.8.1921, Vol. 145, Col.1802 – see references at end of this post) of Krafft Ebing’s  Psychopathia Sexualis. Eine klinische-forensische studie, a study published first in 1886 and already reaching an English translation of its tenth edition by the end of the century. The spectre of eugenics is reflected in Lieutenant Colonel Moore-Brabazon’s proposal that when “dealing with perverts” the best policy is to “not advertise them… because these cases are self-exterminating.” (HC Deb 4.8.1921, Vol. 145, col. 1805). Wild’s allusion to Havlock Ellis’ Sexual Inversion brings to mind Ellis’ later work in The Task of Social Hygiene.

The cultural influence of the social hygiene movement in relation to gender and sexuality was discussed by Frank Mort and Lucy Bland (ICA Talks on BL Sounds) in November 1987, less than a month before the introduction of the New Clause 14, later enacted as section 28 of the Local Government Act, prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality “by teaching or publishing material”.

The harder to find parliamentary material for both of these bills can be accessed in the Social Science reading room. A popular cultural perspective can be seen in the Comics Unmasked exhibition, revealing the impact of anti-homosexual legislation and wide spread social prejudice. Friday Night at the Boozer, from AARGH! a benefit comic aimed at organising against the clause 28, captures the pub atmosphere of “ranting, bigoted boozers”. In Committed Comix 'It Don't Come Easy', published in 1977 ten years after the decriminalisation of sexual acts between two consenting men in private, Eric Presland and Julian Howell recount the story of, “a pair of young men on a first date,” who still, “check under the bed to ensure ‘there's no fuzz hidden around’.” The Homosexual Law Reform Society publications (1957 to 1974) also provide valuable insight into the social context in which the law operated with regard to sexuality.

By the time Wolfenden reported in 1957, the Examiner of Plays in the Lord Chamberlain’s Office had, according to Steve Nicholson, “never passed a play about Lesbianism and … very very rarely one in which homosexuality is mentioned.”  (Nicholson, 2011). As well as the Wolfenden report itself, readers at the British Library can access correspondence and readers’ reports in the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays  Collection (Manuscripts Collections Reader Guide 3: the play collections).

In general, the correspondence files in the Lord Chamberlain’s plays collection reveal the frameworks, such as morality and decency and differentiation between public and private space, within which legislatively empowered censorship, in association with commercial and artistic theatrical interests, negotiated the bureaucratic application of law and its control of the public visibility of diverse sexuality (On the scope of its powers see for example the 1909 Report from joint select committee ..on stage plays (censorship) ). More particularly, attempts to negotiate the Lord Chamberlain’s licence (security against the risk of prosecution) for public performance of one particular play, Jean Genet’s The Balcony (LCP Corr 1965/469), explicitly problematic to the censor for its “major themes of blasphemy and perversion”, including off stage voicing of faked sadomasochistic pain, lasted from 1957 until 1965; or from Wolfenden until just a few years before decriminalisation and  the abolition of theatre censorship by the Theatre Act 1968.

A longer look at some of the sources and collections discussed at the training day will feature in the Spring 2015 issue of Legal Information Management. More information about the day’s programme can be found at http://events.sas.ac.uk/events/view/15965, and in the Socio-Legal Newsletter No.73 (Summer 2014)

References

Criminal Law Amendment Bill. HL Bills (1921) [8,a-d etc; 21, a – b & 22].
Harder-to-find House of Lords Bills, such as this one, can be requested from shelf mark BS 96/1. See our guide to Parliamentary Papers for more details.

Parliamentary debates on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill (1921) [HC Deb 4.8.1921, Vol. 145,  cols.1799-1807] ; [HL Deb 15.8.1921, Vol.    cols. 567 – 577].
Available in the Social Science reading room at BS. Ref. 13 and 14. See our guide to parliamentary proceedings

Standing Committee debate on Clause 28  (SC Deb (A) 8.12.1987, cols.1199 ff)
Available in the Social Science reading room at BS. Ref. 23 

Report from the Joint Select Committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons on the stage plays (censorship); together with the proceedings of the committee, minutes of evidence, and appendices.
British Library shelfmark: Parliamentary papers B.S. Ref 1, 1909 session paper no.303, vol VIII pg 451

Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (Homosexual Offences and Prostitution). [the ‘Wolfenden report’]. 1957. Cmnd. 247
British Library shelfmark: B.S.18/158.; Parliamentary papers B.S. Ref 1, 1956-57 session, vol XIV pg 85

Committed Comix: It Don’t Come Easy. 1977.
British Library shelfmark: Cup.821.dd.150.[C]

[Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia] (1988). AARGH! Northampton
British Library shelfmark: YK.1990.b.10288

Arnot, M; 'Images of Motherhood: Achieving Justice in Nineteenth-century Infanticide Cases' Socio-Legal Studies and the Humanities: conference abstracts

Cohen, D (1987) 'The legal Status and political role of women in Plato’s Laws', Revue internationale des droits de l'antiquité 34 (1987) pp27-40
British Library shelfmark P.P.1898.hab

Ellis, Havelock (1897) Studies in the psychology of sex. Vo. 1. Sexual inversion.
London. British Library shelfmark: Cup.364.b.1.

Ellis, Havelock (1912) The task of social hygiene. London.
British Library shelfmark: 08275.cc.55.

Krafft-Ebing, Richard von (1886) Psychopathia Sexualis. Eine klinische-forensische studie. Stuttgart.
British Library shelfmark: 7641.ff.29.

Krafft-Ebing, Richard von [translated by Francis J. Rebman] (1899) Psychopathia sexualis, with especial reference to antipathic sexual instinct ... The only authorised English translation of the tenth German edition. London.
British Library shelfmark: Cup.363.ff.22.

Homosexual Law Reform Society. [1959]. Homosexuals and the law, etc. London.
British Library shelfmark: 8296.a.13.

Homosexual Law Reform Society. 1963- . Spectrum A.T./ H.L.R.S. Newsletter. London.
British Library shelfmark: Cup.364.ff.1.

Homosexual Law Reform Society. [1965- ]. [Miscellaneous pamphlets and leaflets.] London.
British Library shelfmark: Cup.702.dd.1.

Homosexual Law Reform Society. [1966- ]. Report, 1963-66 [etc.]. London.
British Library shelfmark: P.201/52.

Nicholson, Steve. (2003- ) The censorship of British Drama 1900-1968. Exeter.
British Library shelfmarks: vol 1 (1900- 1932) YC.2003.a.4950; vol 2 (1933- 1952) YC .2005.a.12027; vol. 3 (the fifties) YC.2011.a.16019; vol. 4 (the sixties) forthcoming

16 July 2014

Age is in the eye of the beholder

Add comment Comments (0)

Social science curator Simone Bacchini reports on a recent conference at the British Library, which examined the portrayal of ageing.

ProfessorLynneSegal-websmall
Professor Lynne Segal, Birkbeck University of London, speaking at the British Library

Everybody’s doing it, so we might as well be open about it. What? Drug-taking? No: getting older; it’s ageing I’m talking about.

And talk about it we did, at the one-day conference held at the British Library on Monday, 28 April 2014. To be precise, what we explored was how we talk about or, to be more precise, how we portray age and ageing. The event was co-organised by the British Library’s Social Sciences Department, Queen Mary University’s School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, and the Centre for Policy on Ageing (CPA).

You might think that this was a very academic debate, quite abstract and theoretical. And yes, many of the day’s speakers were indeed academics, starting with the keynote speaker, Professor Lynne Segal, - whose recent book ‘Out of Time: The pleasures and the perils of ageing’ (Verso, 2013) is an examination of her own life as well an exploration of ageing. But the whole point of the event was to show that the ways age and ageing are portrayed - in the media, in Government policy documents, or in countless everyday conversations – does have practical consequences.

Alexa-purves-weblarge
This portrait of Ms Alexa Purves (acrylic and watercolour on paper, 83.5 x 59.9 cm.), painted by Scottish artist Fionna Carlisle was displayed at the conference. It is part  of the artist’s cooperation with the Edinburgh-based  Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology for the  Portraits of an Intelligent Scotland project, an exhibition of portraits representing the lives of two groups of people: cohort participants in a unique study of ageing, and the scientists that are studying them.

Like many other occurrences, age and ageing do not appear to be problematic concepts, at least on the surface: age/ing is what happens when, well, when you get older. And yet, think about it a bit more carefully and problems begin to appear. Words like ‘old’ turn opaque: when does one become ‘old’, for example? Is it at 70, 80, or 90? Much depends on average life-expectancy, of course; which is why, in the West at least, who is and who isn’t ‘old’ and what society expects of them is constantly shifting.

So age and ageing have become ‘hot topics’. More and more people are looking at them from a variety of angles. This is why, here at the British Library, we decided to prioritise this disciplinary area by expanding the existing resources to facilitate its study and to actually bring together people with an interest in it, not only to exchange ideas but also to explore how to better respond, as a repository of knowledge, to their needs.

The idea for the conference began to form following an observation: on one hand, scientific innovations that allow us to live longer are hailed as great advances; while on the other, the fact that people nowadays live longer is regularly framed as a problem. The metaphors that are often used when the topic is discussed, for example in relation to the welfare state and health services are revealing: ‘time-bomb’ and ‘drain on resources’ are only two examples. And in discourse on ageing populations, older citizens (itself a problematic label: who are ‘the elderly’? Are they all the same?) are often portrayed as ‘takers’, leading comfortable lives at the expense of the younger generations who, when their time comes, will not be as fortunate. The messages we receive are, in other words, contradictory; age is both an opportunity, especially in a market economy that sees longer lives as a chance for prolonged consumption, and a burden, for its ‘costs’.

The ways in which we, as a society, represent age and ageing are therefore relevant and have consequences for the ways we construe and relate to older people. From policy-making to intergenerational relations, the ways in which age is construed and presented are never neutral. They can and should be constantly challenged; to do so, both the art historian and the sociologist, the social worker and the literary theorist, as well as – let’s not forget it – older people themselves, can and should contribute to the debate. Something we hope to have facilitated with this event, a video recording of which will soon be available (watch this space!).

And anyway, when does ageing really start? The day we are born, one may say.

 

29 April 2014

Law, Gender and Sexuality

Add comment Comments (0)

In this post Jon Sims, Curator for Law and Socio-Legal Studies, writes about the third national socio-legal training day to be organised by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the British Library and the Socio-Legal Studies Association. The training day will be held on the 19 May 2014 at the Institute of Advanced legal Studies, London.

Question: What do the following have in common - a lapel badge exclaiming “keep your filthy laws off my body”, the “disciplinary gaze” of the police in interwar London, OECD statistics, wills, the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery, feminist legal judgments, oral history recordings at the British Library, and a 1907 leaflet advertising a talk by a certain “Miss Pankhurst LL.B” (Bachelor of Laws)?

Answer: they are all topics or items from major collections to be discussed at Law, Gender and Sexuality: sources and methods in socio-legal research - an all-day event on 19 May 2014 at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.

Following the model of previous successful events, this year’s training day aims to draw attention to archives and content which newcomers to the investigation of intersections between law, gender and sexuality may not be aware of and to consider the methodological and practical issues involved in analysing sources.  Read on for a taste of this year's presentations by academics, archivists, librarians and curators brought together specically for the event.

Launching the day, the law and feminism session sees Professors Rosemary Hunter and Rosemary Auchmuty discussing, respectively, empirical, feminist analysis and redrafting of legal judgments and the sources and methods informing feminist approaches to sexuality and law scholarship and the gendered interrogation of common identities assumed by the simplistic “gay and lesbian” coupling or notions of the “LGBT community”. Later on, addressing same sex relationships Daniel Monk will focus on the insights afforded by wills, overlooked legal documents offering insights on family, gender, kinship and personal life and on issues associated with their use, while Rosie Harding draws from her utilisation of LGBTQ popular culture sources, sharing her experiences of working with autobiographical narratives, utopian film and literature, cartoons and images.

Drawing from the new “Sisterhood & After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement” project, Dr. Polly Russell will explore how activists involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement challenged cultural assumptions about women and will raise questions about  the intersection between this and legislative change in the areas of reproductive rights, equal opportunities and education. Other British Library resources treating or offering a window on areas of law, gender and sexuality within varied, sometimes cross-disciplinary contexts, and not easily found within a traditional law library will be highlighted as well.

Introducing the Hall Carpenter Archive (1958 onwards) and the Women’s Library@LSE in the context of the LSE collections for gender and sexuality studies, Heather Dawson provides background, scope and practical details for exploiting this renowned archive of post Wolfenden gay activism, and what a former Fawcett Society councillor is quoted to have described as “a gold mine of information of the political and social history of women”.

While Elizabeth Dawson and Fiona Cownie investigate the potential for gender focussed research in the Archives of Legal Education at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Professor Cownie shares theoretical and practical insights drawn from her research on Claire Palley, the first woman to be appointed to a Chair in Law in the U.K.  Bridging the themes of legal education and professions, and Men, Masculinities and Law, Professor Richard Collier draws attention to diverse primary sources and sociological data utilised in research on diversity, work life balance and wellbeing in law firms and universities, and father’s activism in law reform.

On visual sources and methods Professor Amanda Perry-Kessaris provides a tour of treasures with a law, gender and sexuality theme hidden or showcased at locations such as the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, while Dr. Dominic Janes draws attention to the research potential of police photographs to investigate the “disciplinary gaze” of London’s police and compare arrests of “effeminate homosexuals” and so called “normally” dressed men in club raids in the interwar years.

If you are interested in attending the conference why not register?  The student rate is just £30.00 for the whole day.

Articles developed from last year's event on legal biography can be read on SAS space using the search term Legal Biography and in special issues of Legal Information Management

04 April 2014

The Redress of the Past

Add comment Comments (0)

In this post, Tom Hulme explains more about historical pageants and a public workshop entitled ‘The Redress of the Past’ to be held in London on 8 May 2014.

Chelsea-historical-pageant3
The Chelsea Historical Pageant ... 1908. Book of Words.
British Library 11779.k.25

The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain, 1905-2016, is a major AHRC-funded project, being conducted at Kings College London, the Institute of Education, and the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow. The project will uncover the full spread of the popular pageantry movement in Britain. The British Library’s collections contain many examples of pageant books, music, posters and manuscripts that show how people and communities celebrated and commemorated the past.

Pageants were often huge local community events staged by a variety of different groups for a range of purposes, from town charter commemorations and royal jubilees, to local association fundraisers or political protest. Casts consisted of thousands of locals, and thousands more spectators crowded into purpose built open-air arenas, as communities came together to perform what they saw as a shared history and identity. While the movement ebbed and flowed and declined especially following the Second World War, pageants are still occasionally held today, and have lasted as important memories for those who spectated or took part.

Greenwich-night-pageant
Greenwich Night Pageant: Pictures. British Library YD.2010.b.2955

As well as producing articles, books and oral histories on this under-researched topic we also hope to encourage popular public engagement, especially through our website and twitter - http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/ and @Pageantry_AHRC – as well as through the creation of a publically accessible database of the pageants we’ve researched. We’d like to get feedback on these aspects of the project, and so are looking for volunteers to participate in a user-group workshop. The purpose of this event is to gain opinions from various constituencies, academic and non-academic, which will then be used to further shape the form and content of the project website and database.

The event will be held at King's College London on the afternoon of 8 May 2014, beginning at 12.30, and includes lunch. If you are interested in participating, please email historicalpageants@kcl.ac.uk by Monday 28 April 2014. In the meantime please do look at our blog and follow us on twitter – we’d love to hear more from anyone who has an interest in pageantry, has watched a pageant, or even performed in one themselves.

Tom Hulme is a researcher on the AHRC-funded project 'The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain, 1905- 2016', Kings College London Department of History. 

21 March 2014

The Annual Equality Lecture

Add comment Comments (0)

This year we will hold the fourth annual Equality Lecture with the British Sociological Association on the 30 May. This series has been a brilliant way for leading sociologists and social scientists to present their research on key issues in equality to a public audience. This year, we are delighted that our speaker will be Dr Tom Shakespeare, a senior lecturer in medical sociology at the University of East Anglia and disability rights advocate. Tom will be talking about ‘Enabling Equality: from disabling barriers to equal participation’ to explore what it takes to achieve equality for disabled people, in the era of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ‘welfare reform’.

Tom’s research interests centre on disability studies and bioethics and his publications include: The Sexual Politics of Disability (1996), Genetic Politics (2002) and Disability Rights and Wrongs (2006). He has worked at the World Health Organization in Geneva where he helped write and edit the World Report on Disability (WHO 2011). Tom has been involved in the disability movement for 25 years.

Jon Legge TWS head shoulders SMALL
Above: Dr Tom Shakespeare. Photograph © Jon Legge.

Last year, the speaker at this event was Professor Danielle Allen, from the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, who spoke about what is needed from society in order for an egalitarian model of politics to be successful. Her talk ‘The Art of Association: the formation of egalitarian social capital’ is available via YouTube and below:

  

In 2012, Professor Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, spoke on the subject of ‘What’s so good about being more equal?’ Much of Danny’s work is available on open access via his website: http://www.dannydorling.org/. Danny’s lecture is also available via YouTube.

The first speaker in the series was Professor Richard Wilkinson, Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and co-founder of The Equality Trust, who spoke on the topic of the best-selling book (co-authored with Professor Kate Pickett) The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone'. The first lecture in the series was hugely popular and was a fantastic start to the whole series.

This year Tom's lecture will be accompanied by live subtitles provided by STAGETEXT. For more information and a link to the booking options, please visit the British Library’s What’s On pages.

Useful information

Remember that books by the speakers listed here are available via the British Library’s collections. Begin searching here and find out about how to get a reader pass here. The British Sociological Association lists their events here.

14 March 2014

Beyond Nature versus Nurture

Add comment Comments (0)

On the evening of 11th March we held the public event ‘Beyond Nature versus Nurture’ which examined how the field of epigenetics has enabled scientists and social scientists to gain clearer idea of how environmental factors get ‘under the skin’ to change the way genes are expressed and cells behave. The evening examined how the dichotomy of nature / nurture as two opposed explanations for human behaviour and outcomes cannot be upheld with the knowledge we now have from the life sciences and social sciences. It showed how the sciences and social sciences can usefully work together to better understand differences between individuals and groups of people. The event was part of the series of events that have been organised to support the ‘Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight’ exhibition at the British Library (free, and on until 26 May).

George Davey Smith, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Bristol, was our first speaker for the evening. He introduced the audience to the different factors which can influence the expression of genes, from events at the cellular level of the individual, to the experiences of our ancestors, which have been of particular interest to those working in epigenetics (see also Hughes’ article, below). In particular, Davey Smith described how ‘chance’ and random events in an individual’s life may account for health outcomes that could not easily be predicted by epidemiology. He talked about how the element of ‘chance’ in human life is an issue for other disciplines which aim to understand life trajectories, health and make predictions about outcome. The element of chance and unpredictability in human life seemed an optimistic line of enquiry to pursue given the constant bombardment of stories about known ‘risks’ in our press and media! George’s work has also considered the complexity of the interactions that development and environment can have on human health outcomes over a lifetime and how these factors are often hard to dissect.

Panel and Audience WEB

Above: panel and audience at 'Beyond Nature vs. Nurture' on 11 March 2014. © The British Library Board.

Nikolas Rose, Professor of Sociology and Head of the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine at King's College London, began his talk with a brief history of the nature versus nurture dichotomy, tracing the influence of this particular conceptualisation on the development of (for instance) eugenic policies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He described the lasting and negative effects of controversial concepts such as eugenics on the relationship between the life sciences and the social sciences. Yet, Rose was optimistic for the future of the relationship between the disciplines, citing developments in epigenetics and epidemiology as exciting and with considerable potential for the different disciplines to work together. He described his own recent work about the impact of urban living on the individual psyche which takes into account the external environment of the city and its impact on the internal environment of the body. This project, which immediately made me think of Georg Simmel’s, ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, offers potential for finding transformative ways for the life sciences and social sciences to work together.

Thus, overall, the messages of the evening were optimistic ones. Many of us left thinking about the potential for more interdisciplinary events at the British Library and were rather less concerned than we may have been before about the potential damage we have done to our bodies (thinking that we may be one of the lucky ones that ‘chance’ favours!). I was reminded to really not pay too much attention to all the press interpretations of research on ‘risk’ (a message also clear in one of our previous ‘Myths and Realities’ events), but to rather consider the evidence from well-established epidemiological research about factors that can affect health risks and outcomes (such as smoking and lung cancer). It also seemed about time to dig out those A level Biology text books, as my scientific colleague kindly told me that stochastic pretty much means ‘random’. I’m going to have to look up DNA methylation though…!

Thanks to our speakers, and to the chair, Professor Jane Elliott, Head of the Department of Quantitative Social Science, for a stimulating evening at the British Library.

Further reading

Davey Smith, George. (2012) ‘Epidemiology, epigenetics and the ‘Gloomy Prospect’: embracing randomness in population health research and practice’. International Journal of Epidemiology, 40(3) pp. 537-562. Available online: http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/40/3/537.full

Hughes, Virginia. (2014) ‘The Sins of the Father’. Nature. V. 507. 6 March 2014. pp. 22 – 24.

Renton, Caroline. L. & Davey Smith, George. (2012) ‘Is Epidemiology ready for epigenetics?’ International Journal of Epidemiology, 41(1) pp.5-9. Available online: http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/41/1/5.full.pdf+html

Rose, Nikolas. (2012) ‘The Human Sciences in a Biological Age’. Theory, Culture and Society, 0(0) pp. 1 – 32.

25 February 2014

My notes from a conference

Add comment Comments (0)

Robert Davies, Engagement Support Officer for Social Sciences at the British Library, writes:

In January, I was pleased to attend the one day conference ‘Working with Paradata, Marginalia and Fieldnotes: The Centrality of By-Products of Social Research’ at the University of Leicester.

The conference was convened by the University of Leicester, the National Centre for Research Methods (Novella Group) and the Institute of Education. The aim of the day was to provide an opportunity ‘for dialogue across disciplines and research paradigms: across the social sciences and humanities, historical and contemporary data, primary and secondary resources, quantitative and qualitative approaches’.  The programme and range of speakers truly reflected this aim.

On arrival one of my fellow delegates asked me the question:

‘So which area of interest brings you here?’

To which I responded:

‘Well, I suppose, I come at this from two directions; as a former conservator of manuscripts and printed books I understand marginalia, as an Engagement Support Officer for Social Sciences I am fascinated by how we might re-use more recent ‘secondary data’ to help understand contemporary society, but I am not sure what Paradata means.'

So what do we mean by marginalia and paradata?  To quote Henrietta O’Connor:

‘…[they are] material collected as part of, supporting or in addition to the research process.  Annotations and augmentations revealed through the analysis of original documents.  By-products, non-standard ‘data’, ephemera, letters, pictures, notes.’

Speakers and delegates went on to consider methodologies for undertaking the analysis of marginalia and field-notes (such as the application of narrative analysis); the potential ethical implications of undertaking secondary analysis of ‘historic’ surveys and following up with the subjects of those surveys; how the analysis of marginalia and field-notes can cast a light on what we understand to be ‘acceptable’ research practices at any given point and how such perceptions shift over time. It included discussion of the latest technological developments which can, and are, being used to collect paradata during large telephone and on-line surveys to understand low response and drop-out rates and to make appropriate adjustments to the surveys as they progress; how individuals may feel that data is being collected by ‘stealth’; and the potential for, and difficulties of, including cognitive and behaviour coding in surveys.

The conference concluded with an examination of the marginalia and notes of the writer Vernon Lee (Violet Paget). It examined the importance of capturing marginalia during digitisation projects and the sustainability of data which is ‘born’ digital (regardless of whether the digital content is generated through digitisation projects of ‘historic’ material or via large national household surveys).

In the spirit of the conference, to gain alternative perspectives on the day I thoroughly recommend reading Llordllama’s Research Ramblings and viewing a storify by Dr Helen Kara of the tweets posted on the day.  I hope the bibliography below may be of some use (although it is a very small selection of the books and articles available on the subjects covered during the conference).

Bibliography

Andrews, M.; Squire, C.; Tamboukou (editors) Doing Narrative Research, Sage, 2008.  British Library shelfmark: YC.2012.a.10037

Crone, R.; Halsey, K.; Owens, W.R.; Towheed, S. (editors) The History of Reading.  vol. 1. International perspectives, c.1500-1990. vol. 2. Evidence from the British Isles, c.1750-1950. vol. 3. Methods, strategies, tactics. British Library shelfmarks:
Volume 1 - YC.2013.a.1041; Volume 2 - YC.2013.a.1042; Volume 3 - YC.2013.a.1043

Elliott, H.; Ryan, J.; Hollway, W.  Research encounters, reflexivity and supervision, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, Issue 5, Volume 15, pp 433-444. (2012)

Gillies, V.; Edwards, R. Working with archived classic family and community studies: illuminating past and present conventions around acceptable research practice.  International Journal of Social Research Methodology, Issue 4, Volume 15, pp 321-330. (2012)

Groves, R. M.; Heeringa, S. G. Responsive design for household surveys: tools for actively controlling survey errors and costs.  Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A, Statistics in society. VOL 169; NUMBER 3, (2006),pp 439-457.

Kirgis, N.;  Lepkowski, JM. “Design and Management Strategies for Paradata Driven Responsive Design: Illustrations from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth,” in Improving Surveys with Paradata: Analytic Use of Process Data, Krueter, F. (editor). New York: J.W. Wiley & Sons, (2013).

O'Connor, H.; Goodwin, J. Revisiting Norbert Elias's sociology of community: learning from the Leicester re-studies. The Sociological review. VOL 60; NUMBER 3, 2012, pp 476-497.  Blackwell Publishing Ltd , 2012.

O'Connor, H.; Goodwin, J. Through the interviewer’s Lens: Representations of 1960s Households and Families in a Lost Sociological Study, Sociological Research Online, Volume 15, Issue 4, (2009).

Turner, Malgorzata New perspectives on interviewer-related error in surveys : application of survey paradata (2013), University of Southampton, Thesis available via the British Library Electronic Theses Online System (EThOS).

Other Resources

The Research Ethics Guidebook: A resource for social scientists Online 

Developing Generic Ethics Principles for Social Science: An Academy of Social Sciences Initiative on Research Ethics

UK Reading Experience Database 1450 -1945