Sociology

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Unfolding oral history methods
Alison Slater

Martin Ball (2005) uses the textile metaphors of pleats and folds to explain the writing of history, where historians choose which points to bring together, what to conceal and what to reveal. This chapter applies these ideas to stories of clothes told from the perspective of memory. It uses oral testimonies from women who lived in the North West of England during the Second World War to unpack – or unfold – what their clothing memories say about their lives at that time. Listening to how these narratives are told, what is said and what is left unspoken demonstrates how our clothing practices are interwoven into our everyday lives, our sense of self and our sense of belonging to a wider groups of people, both at the time when garments were worn and at the time they are remembered. The chapter also provides practical advice for other researchers through its analysis.

in Mundane Methods
Object interviews as a means of studying everyday life
Helen Holmes

Since the material turn researchers have been exploring new ways to engage with the objects and materials of everyday life. Such methods aim to overcome subject–object binaries, placing the very substance of materials at the core of their inquiry (Gregson and Crewe, 1998). This chapter takes one such approach – object interviews – to explore how objects and materials structure our everyday lives and relationships. This method involves not only unearthing the significance of objects to their owners, but also, importantly, investigating the biography of the object itself. Drawing on the work of Humphries and Smith (2014) such an approach reveals an object’s materiality, biography and practice. It explores how an object’s material qualities – its fibres, textures, patterns and forms (Miller, 2005) – influence the relationship we have with it. Objects form part of networks with other objects, they have past and future lives, they enable and afford certain practices and activities, and they often play a central role in the relationships we have with others. They are a crucial component in everyday life. This chapter offers empirical examples of object interviews, alongside tips on how to use this method both as a form of inquiry and a focus of study.

in Mundane Methods
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An approach to remembering and documenting everyday experiences
Karin Widerberg

Memory Work is an approach developed to help explore the mundane by problematising the things we take for granted. Using stories of memories and experiences, the participants, researcher and research subjects/participants are invited to look for variety – in one’s own stories as well as in relation to the stories of the others – regarding content as well as interpretations. A set of techniques is developed to make this happen, in writing as well as in analysis. Focusing on the social aspects of a story not only implies a possibility to connect different analytical levels (micro and macro) and verify concepts and theories, but also allows us to question or specify fixed or simplified categories and concepts by making other memories, experiences and understandings visible. As such it is an approach that stimulates creativity and knowledge production in research, to the joy of all participants. Here a case of a one-day research seminar is chosen to illuminate the techniques of the approach and the kinds of knowledge that can be gained thereby. The illustration is meant to inspire further use and development of the approach so as to fit different situations and themes in teaching and research.

in Mundane Methods
Samantha Wilkinson

This chapter draws on mobile phone methods I used when exploring young people’s everynight alcohol consumption practices and experiences in the suburban case study locations of Chorlton and Wythenshawe, Manchester, UK. In this chapter, I highlight ‘mobile phone methods’ including mobile phone interviews and text messaging. Mobile phone interviews involved asking young people to use their phones to take photographs and videos on their nights out, and then using these visuals as prompts to elicit discussion in an informal interview. Text messaging was beneficial in providing a date- and time-stamped experience snapshot of young people’s alcohol-related, present-tense actions. These culturally credible mundane methods enabled young people to communicate with myself, as researcher, ‘on their own terms’.

in Mundane Methods
Studying mobility scooters in a context of spatial mobility injustice
Thomas Birtchnell, Theresa Harada, and Gordon Waitt

In this chapter, we consider the methods available to study mundane and exceptional transport use. With ageing populations and rapid technological advancements, the electric mobility scooter has become an everyday assistive technology for people with physical mobility impairments in the global North. And yet, the electric mobility scooter remains overlooked by planners and engineers, not easily integrating with other everyday transport modes, and generating significant concern among motorists, cyclists and pedestrians because of their size, weight, speed and reputation in the media.

The chapter offers methodological novelty by narrating the freedoms and constraints of scooter riding as well as pointing to the implications of exceptional transport use for transport geography, policy and planning. We draw on empirical data from a mixed-methods mobility project that utilised conventional and mobile methods including video, semi-structured interviews, solicited diaries and accompanied journeys in Wollongong, Australia. We demonstrate how the peripheralisation of the electric mobility scooter works to reinforce and perpetuate the dominance of automobility in Australian urban and regional spaces and constitute electric mobility scooters as out of place and a source of anxiety.

in Mundane Methods
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Innovative ways to research the everyday

Mundane methods is an innovative and original collection which will make a distinctive methodological and empirical contribution to research on the everyday. Bringing together a range of interdisciplinary approaches, it provides a practical, hands-on approach for scholars interested in studying the mundane and exploring its potential. Divided into three key themes, this volume explores methods for studying materials and memories, senses and emotions, ,and mobilities and motion, with encounters, relationships, practices, spaces, temporalities and imaginaries cross-cutting throughout. In doing so, it draws on the work of a range of established and up-and-coming scholars researching the everyday, including human geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, urban planners, cartographers and fashion historians. Mundane methods offers a range of truly unique methods – from loitering, to smell mapping, to Memory Work – which promise to embrace and retain the vitality of research into everyday life. With empirical examples, practical tips and exercises, this book will be accessible to a range of audiences interested in making sense of the everyday.

Adored, forgotten about, potent and mundane objects
Sophie Woodward

Collections have been associated with special consumption, consisting of items separated off from use (Belk, 1995), and yet houses are full of collections of objects which are often everyday and include both the used and the unused (Woodward and Greasley, 2015). This chapter explores how exploring these everyday collections is an approach which allows us to understand the complexities of everyday consumption, as we are able to explore the relationship between the unused, the cherished and the habitually used. Taking examples such as wardrobes, cupboards, garages, music collections and fridges, the approach is outlined in terms of the methods it involves (a combination of collection audits, object mapping and object biographies) as well as the possibilities this approach affords for how we can understand everyday lives.

in Mundane Methods
Walking from the mundane to the marvellous
Morag Rose

Walking is an everyday practice with extraordinary resonances. This chapter explores walking as a mobile method for studying the everyday. The LRM (Loiterers Resistance Movement) is a Manchester-based psychogeographical collective I founded in 2006. We walk together every month to connect with the city but also to bear witness, challenge and complicate regeneration narratives. My PhD research walked with women to discuss their thoughts, feelings and experiences of Manchester. This chapter shares fieldwork notes and practical tips to develop walking methods at a variety of scales:

1) lone wandering as a way to critically explore everyday spaces;

2) walking interviews because walking and talking together facilitates rich conversations about the environment;

3) creative walking. Derives and drifts use ludic methods such as transposing maps, throwing dice or following themes to provoke new understandings of space. I have played games such as CCTV bingo to provoke discussion and affective re-mapping.

in Mundane Methods
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Methods for exploring mundane jographies
Simon Cook

Why is it important to understand running experiences and how can we know them? Recent advances in mobile methods have welcomed a whole range of new methods to the researcher’s toolkit. All, in some way, aim to move with the subjects they are studying. These methods are often interested in uncovering and making strange the taken-for-granted aspects of practices and in revealing the vast importance of our everyday experiences. These are methods I have been applying in recent years to the geographical study of running – or jography. This chapter will introduce the run-along interview, mobile video-ethnography and self-tracking elicitation as some novel ways of researching mundane running experiences, as well as highlighting the fascinating insights into everyday life they permit. In short, this chapter serves as an introduction to a jographer’s toolkit.

in Mundane Methods
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Dawn Lyon

This chapter considers different tools researchers might use to explore mundane rhythms. While rhythm is pervasive in everyday life, its intangibility makes it difficult to research. Drawing on Henri Lefebvre’s Rhythmanalysis (2004), this chapter explores rhythm as a tool of analysis. For Lefebvre, rhythmanalysis is a fundamentally embodied research practice. The chapter discusses different examples of doing rhythmanalysis in which the body is a central device for registering rhythm. It also considers research tools beyond the body such as audio-visual techniques which might be used to show what our senses cannot directly perceive. These approaches can help identify the different co-existing rhythms of everyday life, reveal how we inhabit time and space, and promote spatially, temporally and sensually attuned practices of research.

in Mundane Methods