My presentation was a case study drawn from the research we did as part of the AHRC-funded Creative Citizens project. The case study, focused on the Tyburn Mail community media operation in Castle Vale in Birmingham, forms a chapter in a forthcoming book on urban policy and the work of the Connected Communities research programme (After Regeneration, forthcoming from Policy Press, edited by Dave O’Brien and Peter Matthews).
I’m keen to flesh out the chapter to form a journal article so giving the paper a run out in its current form at a conference is often a good way to get ideas for where you might have missed a potential fresh angle on the research.
I was pleased then to find myself on a diverse panel that offered up two excellent examples of action research projects that showed me the importance of a more critically thought through research design, and a paper on feminist media archives that made me realise how inattentive I’d been to issues of representation of people as well as place in my own work.
First up, Professor David McGillivray and Jennifer Jones discussed the Digital Commonwealth project but pointed to the issues raised by Budd Hall about the relationship between higher education and the communities they research.
This was thoughtful action research that worked with citizens to help counter the dominant narratives that are part and parcel of corporately sponsored sporting spectacles (2014 Commonwealth Games in this case).
The second paper saw an inventive research design by Jason Cabañes from University of Leeds and Violet Valdez, PhD from Ateneo de Manila University in The Philippines. Similar to my own paper, they were interested in the narrow framing that mainstream media gives to particular localities (the Mindanao region in this case).
Their presentation talked us through an initiative that brought together photojournalists and civic activists with the aim of addressing the media’s marginalisation of minority groups. Each of these group’s perception of each other and themselves formed the centrepiece of their talk but what I most impressed with was the iterative design of this action research whereby research findings fed directly into and shaped the next stage of the project.
Finally, Caroline Mitchell discussed how the value of feminist radio archives went beyond mere record and provided a tool for cross-generational activism. Again there was innovative research design here as she showed how the archive of the short-lived 1992 Fem FM radio station formed an inspirational base to a range of activities that helped create “spaces for feminist /women’s organisations and acted as connectors between social and political movements, including women’s movements and the audience”
The wider conference (although I only attended the Friday) was a useful celebration of alternative archiving practices although I was struck by the introduction of one presenter who made a self-deprecating apology for being a ‘qualified’ archivist.
For my own research, which to a degree is about the value or otherwise of community media as archive, the event proved a useful space in which to rethink my research design and approach.