This weekend was spent in a by now all-too-familiar moving process. It goes more or less as follows:
- Hunt around in a panic for cardboard boxes. Find some. Overfill them. Try valiantly to re-tape them for the millionth time. They look as if they might crumble any second. Sit down exhausted. Decide I’ll have to start over.
- Realise that I am now in the midst of packing a ton weight of paperwork that I haven’t looked at for years and will no doubt never look at again. Start to pack into bin bags instead. New home: the dump. Do we really need 5-year old P60s?
- Remember that packing is an artform. Try to achieve a Zen-like state. That fails. Try to apply some combination of intuition and logic. Begin again, this time accompanied by a motivational soundtrack. After several hours, sit down exhausted.
- Find a volunteer willing to help lug everything down and up various flights of stairs in return for only a sandwich, some coffee, and the promise of a pint. Load up their vehicle to the point where its suspension is under threat. Sit down exhausted. [Football traffic near Old Trafford. Feels like we are in Istanbul].
- Arrive at unfamiliar destination. Humf everything out of car in the rain. Stack everything up Tetris-like in the hallway. Locate coffee machine. Naturally, it’s away down at the bottom. Prepare some extra strong coffee. Sit down exhausted.
Okay, so it could be worse. Moving has become pretty much a matter of routine and it can even be kind of fun; especially at the unpacking and “Feng Shui” stages. These days, a lot of people my age are far from ready to commit to “the property ladder” or even settle in one place. We’re keen to travel and get new perspectives. When the census form comes around I really do struggle to remember all the places I’ve lived over the past decade! Not that my last place was bad – but finding somewhere that’s the right fit for you is never straightforward. There’s a huge difference between temporary accommodation and a temporary home. If you can find somewhere that’s the latter rather than the former, it really is like striking gold. Trying to fit everything in to my new room may have been like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube…and I may feel today like I had a work-out at the gym with no warm-up…but with some good friends around to help me move and get settled (well, I’m now living with one of them!) it definitely feels like a step upwards as well as onwards. 🙂
As we finished our morning interview, Wanderer showed me the exit with a smile. “The time just flew in, didn’t it?” she remarked. Despite the unusually early start, I felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm. My bag now had a folder and an mp3 recorder full of original information; I left the building in agreement. The session hadn’t dragged at all. Wonderful. Back at my desk, an email from Ian arrived. “Not as scary as I expected!” she confided. I had to laugh at the thought of our discussion having instilled any foreboding. Isn’t research meant to be enjoyable? Speaking with Ian, Wanderer and others about their fields of research, their organisational cultures, and their views on new media, I’m fairly sure that’s something we all agree on. Regardless of discipline!
I’m now halfway through my pilot data gathering activities and have met with 4 out of 8 participants via 2 “paired interview” sessions – 1 along the road at Manchester University and 1 here at MMU. Preparing materials for what seems an eternity, I am very happy to report that both sessions were extremely informative and genuinely thought-provoking. So far, my interviewees have seemed to find them worthwhile too.1
Getting your “subjects” to take part enthusiastically rather than having them keep one eye on the clock (hey, that’s my job!) is vital to obtaining quality data. That’s why I’ve chosen and devised a combination of discussions, semi-structured interviews, writing activities, and Semantic Differential exercises. Conversations and dialogues are far better than simplistic closed question formats. And of course, timing, flow, and sequencing are everything. It’s too early to conclude but my instinct tells me my data gathering instruments are pretty successful.2 Transcribing the audio and comparing terminologies, anecdotes and insights is already proving fascinating. Hopefully the next 2 are just as illuminating!